Gustafson, Cassie

The Secrets We Keep

(2) YA Fourteen-year-old Emma's family is torn apart when her best friend, Hannah, accuses Emma's father of sexual abuse. He is arrested, and Emma's mother forbids any communication with Hannah. To prevent her family (which also includes her six-year-old brother) from being separated, Emma tells a social worker that her father never behaved inappropriately toward her friend. But she knows Hannah is telling the truth--because she saw it. And Emma has another secret: her father abused her, too. These revelations are disclosed gradually in alternating-chapter flashbacks that are written in the second person, creating a disturbing immediacy (e.g., "You remember being in the shower and hearing the bathroom door creak open for the first time"). In the present day, Emma feels guilty for not protecting Hannah and conflicted about the charges against her father, a man "I love wholly and not at all." (Other characters aren't as multidimensional, like Emma's mother, whose anger toward her daughter is all-encompassing.) Written in lyrical, expressive prose, the story is unrelentingly (and appropriately) dark; interspersed are bleak fairy tales from Emma's journal, which add to the sense of foreboding. The ending, however, is a hopeful one: with reassurance from the staff at an advocacy center, Emma tells her story--and finally finds safety. A list of resources related to suicide, bullying, and sexual violence is appended.


Get connected. Join our global community of more than 200,000 librarians and educators.

This coverage is free for all visitors. Your support makes this possible.

We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing.