The Secrets We Keep

S. & S. Nov. 2022. 352p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781665906944.
Gr 9 Up–High school freshman Emma does not understand why her father was arrested, nor why her best friend Hannah seemingly ignores her. The two white teens supposedly share everything, including secrets. When Emma discovers that Hannah has accused her father of molestation, she finds herself caught between loyalty to family versus admitting the truth about her relationship with her father. Her mother does not make it any easier because she wants to protect the family and willingly supports her husband. As Emma grapples with long-buried secrets, she finally realizes that she must testify against her father. Gustafson’s book deals with the difficult subjects of sexual and emotional abuse in a well-written and heartfelt manner. Emma, caught between her love of her friend Hannah and the demands of her father to lie about the abuse, is a sensitive yet strong character who, with the help of a psychologist, finds her voice. Hannah, also an impressive and brave protagonist, believes that Emma is the victim of incest and wants to protect both herself and her friend. The writing is solid, and while not graphic, presents an easily understood picture. Gustafson’s content warning advises teens “If you need to take breaks while reading this book, please do. I really mean that.” Resources are included in the back matter.
VERDICT A much-needed book and an important purchase.

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