Book Review – I Know You Did It by Sue Wallman

Pages: 249
Published: 6th May 2021
Genre: Young Adult Thriller
Trigger warnings: Bullying, cyber bullying, child death, sexual harassment

A secret from her past threatens to detonate her present… On her first day at a new school, Ruby finds a note in her locker saying I Know You Did It. She’s terrified that someone has found out she was responsible for the death of a girl called Hannah in a playground when they were both toddlers – a secret she has been keeping guiltily for ten years.

When other pupils at the school start suffering serious accidents, the finger of blame points at Ruby. She knows she’s not the perpetrator, but who is? And what link do they have to her past…?

This is a tense and compulsive book with a mystery that does an exceptionally good job of trying to pull the wool over the reader’s eyes. Cleverly written and containing a well thought-out plot, it lacks a degree of depth in places but otherwise provides an impressively authentic main character and a whole host of possible suspects to keep us guessing.

For a novel primarily aimed at a young adult audience, it uses some heavy and hard-hitting concepts as the basis for the story, but these are mostly addressed in a mature way. Indeed, it is this which helps make it such an exciting read where the stakes just keep on rising, aided by a succession of surprising twists and the distinctly contemporary feel it exudes throughout.

When she was only four years old, Ruby was involved in a tragic accident that caused the death of another girl called Hannah, and the incident unsurprisingly still haunts her. Now a teenager, she moves to Robinson for her final year of secondary school after her mother starts a new job, and on her first day she sees a piece of paper stuck to her locker with the words ‘I know you did it’.

She struggles to settle at Robinson and after an anonymous person spreads malicious rumours about her, the truth about Ruby’s past becomes common knowledge. Although she is supported by the school’s staff and becomes close to a boy called Euan, the unwanted attention she receives is too much for her deal with and just when things cannot seem any worse, she discovers that someone very close to Hannah happens to be in the year below.

After repeatedly refusing offers of help from the school newspaper editor Scott, she is stunned one day to find out that a student who has been giving her a bad time is suddenly found dead in the sports hall, and she was the last person to see him alive. With the school’s CCTV system broken and most significantly a motive, Ruby immediately becomes the prime suspect.

The concept is a good one and as the crimes escalate and become more complex, the author shows a fine attention to detail to ensure that there are no plot holes, even if the lack of CCTV is somewhat convenient. Each of the main twists later in the story arrive quite abruptly with no build-up, so it really does achieve that shock factor. However, what was most outstanding is how it manages to conceal the killer’s identity even when deep down, you know who it is.

Everything is told in the first person from Ruby’s point of view, and she makes for both a believable and compelling narrator. Her insecurities are laid bare as there are several moments where she is faced with a fight or flight response, and the author imbues her voice with a real honesty. It is also hard not to feel for her after what happened in the past and how she is treated by some of her fellow students.

Ruby’s relationship with Mara is one of the highlights of the book, even though it is much too good to be true. Mara is one of many intriguing and well developed supporting characters, making the act of predicting the identity of the killer all the more exciting. For example, Euan is very kind and supportive with the nice little twist of his brother being one of the teachers, and despite being slightly irritating, Scott is well written and adds a lot to the story.

Georgia was certainly an interesting character who along with Amber, was much more than what appeared on the surface, while Isaac was a very unpleasant individual and as such was impossible to like. The one storyline that should have been developed more was Ruby’s family situation, as there were only occasional insights into her mother’s condition and the absence of her father.

Settings always play a key role in Sue Wallman’s books and this one is no different. At first it may seem like your average secondary school setting, but it is written with a lot of detail and in a way that many readers will find relatable. Furthermore, the writing in general is engaging and gripping from start to finish.

The ending is disarming and keeps you firmly on the edge of your seat. The build-up to it is full of trepidation as you can sense something is about to happen, and even then it continues to lull you into a false sense of security, until eventually the unescapable truth is revealed. It is a great ending that still contains surprises, and nothing is wrapped up far too neatly.

Overall, this is a bold thriller with a stirring mystery that brings a plentiful amount of twists and tension, carried by brilliantly authentic protagonist. The supporting cast was also full of depth, but the what really stands out is how it cunningly manipulates the reader and plants seeds of doubt, before landing the knockout punch. A book that deserves a wider audience.

Out of the five books Sue Wallman has released to date, this is definitely one of my favourites. It was tense, absorbing, and well written.

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


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