Review of ‘The Secrets We Keep’
Author: Nova Weetman
Age Range: Middle Grade; upper primary; lower secondary; 10 years+
Themes: grief; loss; school; family; friendships; lies; mental illness
To purchase ‘The Secrets We Keep’, click on title links or cover image.
I picked this book up and put it down a number of times as I just wasn’t ready to face some of themes and wanted to be in exactly the right frame of mind. But oh my, how I wish I’d started reading it the second it arrived in my letterbox – the light and the dark were balanced beautifully and I need not have feared too much darkness for young readers from 10 years.
“don’t know if you’ve ever seen a house burn, but it’s not like anything else …”
Clem Timmins has lost it all – her house, possessions and clothes. Now living in a tiny flat with her dad, she has to go to a new school far from what she knows.
On her first day, Clem meets Ellie. To fit in, Clem reveals a secret and immediately regrets sharing too much with her new friend.
How can Clem face everything in her life when all she wants to do is run away?
Clem Timmins is a beautifully authentic teen, from her tatty Converse and worn-too-often leggings to her complex friendships and chaotic mess of half-truths and all the big feelings. I would go so far as to say that Clem is one of the best YA characters I have met in a long time. I was constantly oscillating between wanting to yell at her and give her a big hug…that intense frustration we have with teens as they make mistakes and those feelings of just wanting to say, ‘this too shall pass, just hold on’ are ever present throughout ‘The Secrets We Keep’.
Though the subject matter is certainly heavy, this is very much a middle grade fiction books, albeit one for the more mature readers out there. I will be happily lending this to mature Year Six readers at school as a bridging read into the world of YA literature. It would also be eminently suitable for readers up to Year Nine and even older, the strength of the writing and the themes of the story make it hard to contain in an age category.
Weetman on writing ‘The Secrets We Keep’: I wanted to write a book that explored how a child feels when someone they love becomes emotionally unavailable. How frightening it can be, and how at times they wish the person was physically sick because at least then it’s easier to talk about.
Highly recommended and another excellent UQP production – long shall I love UQP.