“Keeping You a Secret” by Julie Anne Peters
Book: “Keeping You a Secret” by Julie Anne Peters
Published by Little, Brown Books on 4th May, 2005
Genres: Coming-of-age, Lesbian fiction, LGBT, Romance, Young adult
Format: Paperback, 272 pages
Source: Thrift Books
With a steady boyfriend, the position of Student Council President, and a chance to go to an Ivy League college, high school life is just fine for Holland Jaeger.
At least, it seems to be.
When Cece Goddard comes to school, everything changes. Cece and Holland have undeniable feelings for each other, but how will others react to their developing relationship?
Like any normal person, I grabbed this book from my queue pile to read for “fun” and not solely because I had to review it (I bought it), to read a few chapters before bed. Before I knew it, I hit page 50. Normal doesn’t exist, so I obviously wound up reading this in 24 hours. At least I can mark reading a book over 100 pages in a day off my bucket list, eh?
Keeping You a Secret is unputdownable. The last time I felt this way both reading a book and after finishing a book was with The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. I feel like I mention that book all. the. time, but it’s been my favorite reading it, and nothing has compared to it since. There is something warm and fuzzy that happens when I read a book I can personally relate to because of the various themes within it.
Sometimes I wonder what the point in writing is, because I write fiction and what is the point in writing stories when there are so many others out there? But then I find myself reading books and stories wherein I feel a portion of myself represented, and I can’t help wondering about how the book wouldn’t exist—nor would my after feelings—had the author felt the same way. Writing starts to feel worth it again.
I can only imagine the way I feel watching and reading lesbian romance stories is similar to how the majority of the world feels with straight romance stories. ‘Cause I never quite got that—the whole in-love-with-another-person thing—until I saw Imagine Me & You. There’s nothing wrong with straight stories, it’s just that I always struggle so hard to relate to them because I don’t understand the schematics.
Character and story development
I thought Keeping You a Secret was well-written. The story itself is similar to that of Girl in Pieces, only coming out replaces the self-harm aspect. I wish I would have had a book like this available when I was in school. I read more in middle school, so it’d have to have been then—I didn’t go to the library to check out books in either of the high schools I attended. Then again, Accelerated Reader tests burned me out on reading altogether, not to mention I read books that weren’t on their dumb list, so I don’t know if I would have read it. I didn’t live in a home wherein it was okay to be who I was. I put on what Holland calls “The Smile”, because the adults around me decided how I lived and who I was.
Holland’s mom reminded me a lot of my own, right down to the estrangement. I really liked Holland’s realization; I had the same some years ago:
“She didn’t get it. She didn’t understand at all. […] Yeah, I’d made sacrifices; I’d experienced loss. But she had no idea what this was costing her. Because she was losing me.”
When I read a lot of young adult (YA) fiction, I felt like the romance was stretched out and watered down. It’s why I stopped, really. The YA books I’d read felt like
- the female character existed solely to serve that of the male, despite her being the protagonist;
- the romance existed to the sole purpose of creating drama; and
- there would be no book without the romance, though the romance was treated as surreal.
But I didn’t feel like it was watered down and patronized in Keeping You a Secret, and I like that.
I also liked the unraveling of the main character’s epiphany; it reminded me of my own. 😅
I rated this 4/5 stars, because the story itself was great, but the writing was, at times, inconsistent. The protagonist is an intelligent high school senior, yet her vocabulary felt too basic. I’m not asking for anything scholarly, I just feel like there could have been more sophistication in her story, since it was told from first-person POV and Holland was a straight-A student. 🙄
Despite its occasional dated language, Keeping You a Secret could easily serve as a timeless lesson about life, love, friendship, equality, bullying, senior year, and a multitude of other things. I think the possibilities are endless in terms of underlying themes. I’ve been seeing similar books on school districts’ recommended reading lists, which I think is cool and a nice change from the dated classics my schools always put on theirs.