Title: The Secrets We Keep by Deb Loughead
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Mystery
Length: 184 pages
Book Rating: C
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
First she blamed herself. Now she doesn’t know who to trust
When Kit disappeared at a party and was found drowned in the quarry the next day, Clem knew who to point the finger at: herself. She was the last person to see him alive, the last person who could have helped. If she had just kept a closer eye on him instead of her crush, Jake, maybe Kit would still be here. She knows she made a mistake, and wishes she could just forget about it — but Clem’s friend Ellie says she’ll expose Clem’s secret if she doesn’t play along with Ellie’s lies.
Jake seems to have his own difficult secrets, and when he and Clem start to talk, they make a plan to help themselves move on. But when an unexpected discovery at the quarry makes everyone question what they thought they knew, Clem and Jake decide it’s up to them to uncover the truth.
A quick read at less than 200 pages, The Secrets We Keep by Deb Loughead is an enjoyable young adult mystery.
Four months after an end of the school party ended with the drowning death of classmate Kit Stitski, Clementine “Clem” Sanford cannot let go of her guilt that she might have been able to save him. She is also feeling quite disconnected from her family due to the lack of face to face interactions since everyone seems to be addicted to their mobile devices. Even more troubling is her so-called “best” friend Ellie Denton’s behavior which includes blackmailing Clem into covering for her with her mother while Ellie is out with her older boyfriend Mac. The only bright spot in Clem’s life is her renewed friendship with her longtime crush, Jake Harcourt, but both of them continue to harbor guilt about what happened to Kit.
As someone who always did her best to protect Kit from the bullying and teasing of their classmates, Clem’s secrets and lies from the night he died are beginning to eat her alive. Although she considers confessing the truth to her parents, she is afraid that is too late to come clean. However, with Ellie’s demands to lie for her increasing, Clem is ready to do whatever it takes to get her former best friend off her back. After devising a desperate plan to limit her availability to Ellie, Clem is pleasantly surprised by the unintended effects on her relationship with her family. But, she cannot help but to continue to worry about Ellie’s increasingly out of control behavior and Clem is equally concerned about some of the choices Jake has made in the months since the party.
Clem is rather bewildered by the changes in Jake since Kit’s death. Once a sweet young man with plenty of patience, Jake is rather moody and now hangs out with a somewhat sketchy crowd. Despite the differences in his personality, Clem still has a huge crush on her childhood friend and she finally works up the courage to confront him about her concerns about him. Initially less than pleased with her observations, Jake eventually welcomes the opportunity to unburden himself which has an unexpectedly positive effect on the guilt she has been carrying.
After her discussion with Jake, Clem has a new perspective on some of Ellie’s actions in recent months and she finally refuses to let Ellie push her around anymore. After their somewhat heated confrontation, Ellie maintains a low profile just as Clem decides to get to the bottom of what is happening with her friend. Despite the problems between them, Clem is increasingly concerned for her friend’s safety but will Ellie be receptive to Clem’s advice?
Although the mystery surrounding the circumstances of Kit’s death falls a little flat, The Secrets We Keep by Deb Loughead is an engaging young adult novel. While none of the teens’ secrets are not quite as horrible as they imagine, it is very easy to understand how they feel their actions contributed to Kit’s death. The romance between Clem and Jake is very sweet and completely free from angst or drama.
On the other hand, Ellie’s relationship with Mac is unhealthy and borderline abusive and the conclusion to this part of the storyline falls way short of the mark. Instead of taking the opportunity to point out how Mac’s behavior is completely unacceptable, his rough treatment of Ellie is glossed over and ultimately deemed acceptable under certain circumstances. This is not a lesson that should be provided to teenage girls who do not have the experience or life skills to judge when a boyfriend’s actions or behavior crosses the line into abusive.
If Ellie and Mac’s portion of the storyline had been handled differently, I would have no reservations about recommending The Secrets We Keep to teen readers. If my son or daughter were to read this novel, I would definitely have an open, honest discussion about what types of behavior are unacceptable in a relationship.