A few months ago, I got an ARC from the publisher of Secret Keeper. I read it once, thought, ooh, not a fairy tale ending, and read it again, because I was determined to write about it.
So I’ll walk you through it, without giving away the secrets, and there are many.
The cover: WOW. Bold colors, very brash, stand out. I LOVE the cover.
Um, so okay, unrelated, but there you go. I hit Google so I could see a picture of the cover and putting in “Secret Keeper,” and the first thing that came up was a website for Dannah Gresh’s program for girls, Secret Keeper Girl. Dannah, who wrote “And The Bride Wore White.” The color scheme of Dannah’s website is pretty much the color scheme of Mitali Perkin’s book. That’s interesting…As a librarian, this is why I always say, no one word titles, when you write your book, make sure it’s not someone else’s title/brand.
Sorry for THAT detour.
So. Clarification before I move on: Mitali Perkins is not writing a book about girls saving themselves for marriage. However, she is writing a book with complex relationships that go beyond the fairy tale.
At first blush, I did not like Mitali’s book. I can say that, because Mitali knows that I do love it now. I wanted a fairy tale, something on the lines of another book she wrote that I adored so much that I wrote a handwritten note to Mitali, Monsoon Summer. On Twitter, yesterday, Mitali asked, what books did you re-read as a tween? I responded that my faves were Mandy, Thursday’s Child, Dicey’s Song. The first two are orphan stories where the orphan is rescued into a wonderful life. The third is an orphan story of another kind–the hard work of an oldest sibling working in her new family situation where she has to work WITH her grandmother and relinquish power and live with the reality that her mother is not going to return. Dicey’s Song was a huge influence on my tween/teen years. I read it again and again and again. I own at least three copies, one in hardcover, one signed by the author, Cynthia Voigt.
What I loved in the end, about Dicey’s Song, was not the fairy tale, because it wasn’t one, but the perserverence of our protagonist, Dicey. And this, in the end, is what I love about Secret Keeper. Nothing, and I mean, nothing, in this book ends the way you the reader thinks/hopes it might. I don’t want to give too much away, because the unfolding of the secrets is part of the delight of this puzzle of a book.
Some books are meant to be consumed, one gulp, and you’re done. Secret Keeper is not one of those books. To fully grasp the beauty of Mitali’s writing and story, I would recommend two readings. Because there are details you get more beauty out of once you know all the plot points.
One of my favorite images in Mitali’s book is “The Jailer” which is what the two sisters call their mother’s depression. As one who works through depression, I can tell you that a jailer is a pretty good description of how it feels. There is a lot of feeling jailed in this book, not just by the mom, but by the sisters, who must live in the traditional roles that their lives dictate. While this may sound oppressive, I will say that the end is satisfying once you see that it is the opposite of a fairy tale and that the non-fairy tale is what Mitali was going for.
Read this book. You can get it “anywhere books are sold.” Mitali would urge you, as I do, to support your local independent bookstores. As a librarian, I can tell you that libraries do have this on the shelf.