Cover Image: The Secrets We Keep

The Secrets We Keep

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Member Reviews

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for granting me free access to the advanced digital copy of this book, as this book has already been published, I will not share my review on Netgalley at this time.

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Emma, fourteen years old, lives in Prosper, Oregon with her mother, father and six year old brother Kyle. They moved from San Francisco because her father was in trouble for inappropriate behavior with a minor, Alice, a friend of Emma’s. Now it seems that he’s in trouble again with another friend of Emma’s, Hannah. Hannah’s mom found her journal where she’d written about Emma’s father touching her, so the police were called and he was arrested. Emma’s parents have coerced her into standing by her father’s side even if it means lying about the things he’s done to her for years. She’s struggling with loyalty, being treated like a burden and wanting to stand up for her friend and herself.
This is a story about surviving and the strength that takes!

Likes/dislikes: I appreciate the content warning at the beginning of the book to let readers be aware before reading. I enjoyed the gradual unraveling of the mystery surrounding the main character. I like how the author represented survivors and the resources list at the end of the book.

Mature Content: PG-13 for xexual abuse stated but not detailed; verbal abuse, gaslighting of children, physical and emotional neglect; mention of a nonbinary side character with positive interaction and respect.

Violence: PG for temper tantrums and angry outbursts from adults.

Language: R for 37 swears, no f-bombs.

Ethnicity: mixed

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This book really just took me for a ride. I loved the build up, the character development, and the writing. I would definitely read more from this author!

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14-year-old Emma Clark is best friends with 15-year-old Hannah, and this story begins when Hannah accuses Emma's dad of assaulting her. This was a tough read due to the subject matter, but an important story nonetheless.

We follow Emma, her younger brother, and her parents as they prepare for trial. An upcoming appointment for Emma to be questioned is the culmination of the story, and I really liked the progression of the storyline and how we ended up at the end. We got little glimpses of information about how people treated Emma, which wasn't fair to her, and Emma's mother. Her mother and father have an ~11 year age difference, and we get to see her mother's anger and her avoidance of her husband's actions.

The story is told through Emma's perspective, and includes some of Emma's fairy tales that were taken by the police as evidence. Emma's voice is quite young for a YA novel, and I appreciate this. This would be a great recommendation for a younger reader who's beyond middle grade but not ready for upper-level YA.

I felt incredibly sorry for Emma and Hannah, and some of the story was hard to read at times. This was a great book and very well done on a tough subject matter.

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This book made me cry because i felt related to the character what shes going through and her loyalty and felt it was perfect writing. And honestly hard hiting YA novel and made me fee like this book deserves more attention

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I would recommend this book for my older students with a few trigger warnings, I know some may not enjoy the content of this book but it is a wonderful and heart wrenching story.

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A huge thank you to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing for this last minute digital ARC of "The Secrets We Keep" by Cassie Gustafson.

Gustafson did a phenomenal job writing about such a heavy topic. The reactions were organic and believable - and even painful to read at times. The only fault I had with this was the secret truth was too obvious, and part of me wanted to discover this with her instead of realizing the truth at the very beginning. I'm considering this a must read book - these issues are something that some students can identify with, and some have even experienced. Having a literary voice that recognizes what you've been through is important.

"It's not your fault." - one of the most important things ever said.


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Content Warning Via Author: Sexual assault, verbal abuse, gaslighting of a minor or minors, suicidal ideation and self-harm, bullying and victim-shaming.

The book is told from one point-of-view but through different formats and they all come from Emma. There is a present tense, her fairy tale writing, and the memories that she tries to keep away from the surface. All of it eventually becoming too much to bear. But what is the big secret that she is hiding and why is her friend a part of it as well?

Emma is a bright young girl who seems to enjoy school, especially a club that she is involved in with her friend. The only friend she has made since moving. I can understand all too well not having very many friends. It can make you feel isolated. I did wonder if it was by choice due to what has happened to her or if because she was new no one had any interest. Emma is definitely struggling with the reality of things when her father is first arrested and even throughout the book she is torn between loyalty to her friend and family. I can’t imagine being in that situation. It also makes it harder when your family hasn’t always been kind to you and the love you do get from them isn’t the love that you need or want.

For the most part, the other characters in the book are minor but there are those, like her father and friend, who may not have a lot of development but have big plotlines.

The book can be very hard to stomach because of the nature of the plot but it is filled with topics that are very important to talk about with youth. Due to the content listed above, this book won’t be for everyone. I do think that the topics are handled well and it definitely makes your heartache knowing that things like this do happen. It’s just sad.

There is a lot of suspense building up the ending and the big reveal of all of the things that Emma has been holding onto. I didn’t think it would be as bad as it was but it also plays into the reality of things. We don’t always see what is right under our nose and sometimes there are those who choose to ignore it, both parties are written into this book. It’s just tragic all around.

Overall, this was a great book and one I would recommend if you can get through the content warnings.

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Thank you Netgalley and Simon & Schuster for allowing me to read and review this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

First off, my name is in a book?! I never see it a n y w h e r e. (My name is Sequoia, by the way).

Second, I really liked this book.

Emma's best friend Hannah put in for an investigation on Emma's father and the story tells Emma's point of view after hearing the news. Cassie Gustafson puts in a couple of different techniques while writing the events that follow and lead up to the final interview when things are revealed. We get an insight to Emma's dark fairytale stories and what she remembers and has suppressed as a child. As the story continues we see hints and clues of how monstrous Emma's father really is.

I liked reading from Emma's POV and her going through the emotions of pushing Hannah away while also feeling anger, betrayal, confusion, and doubt of the situation. Emma is fourteen years old and and Hannah is fifteen. They both read like their age and I feel Gustafson wrote their personalities realistically.

The Secrets We Keep is an emotional and an uncomfortable read, and reminded me of when I read The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Ellen Hopkins' books, and Courtney Summer's bold stories. The pacing of the writing is spot on and will keep you engaged until the end.

4.75 stars

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this does the dark topics discussed justice, it was so well written with a great plot and works really well as a young adult novel. The characters felt like real people and I could feel for the characters, they were so well written. I enjoyed the way Cassie Gustafson wrote this, I can't wait to read more from her as I really enjoyed this book.

"You remember that you couldn’t stop sobbing, even after the fragments of paper—of truth acknowledged—were tucked away where no one would ever find them. The journal was ruined now, the jagged void a disfiguring scar"

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