Sworn Secret is a stunning debut, the kind of novel that will make you miss your stop on the way to work, and have you discussing it with all your friends.
It follows the Thorne family a year after the death of their eldest daughter, Anna, who fell from the roof of the school. Lizzie is struggling to find her own identity instead of just being `the dead girl's sister', while Jon and Kate's marriage is still reeling from the grief. They are coping - just. But then a secret emerges that shatters any illusion they had of moving on.
What makes this novel so remarkable is the way Amanda Jennings gets inside the head of not only Lizzie, but Jon and Kate as well. The difficult emotions and questions raised are not shied away from, and it is richly layered, with many different threads - there is the touching, tender story of Lizzie finding first love; the raw, unflinching view of a marriage crumbling; the shock of discovering that you may not have known your teenage daughter as well as you thought; and above all, the love that binds a family together despite all odds.
Jennings' prose is beautifully observed, with many tiny moments of stunning clarity that will stick with you. There's also humour, and warmth, and although I don't want to give too much away plot-wise, it would be the perfect novel for a book group, as it raises so many fascinating questions. I can't wait for her next novel.