Monday, January 23, 2012

Review: Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters

Title: Keeping You a Secret
Author: Julie Anne Peters
Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers 
Release date: May 4th 2005
Pages: 250
Genre: Contemporary YA; romance; LGBT
Source: Bought
Find out more: Amazon | Goodreads

Goodreads description:
As she begins a very tough last semester of high school, Holland finds herself puzzled about her future and intrigued by a transfer student who wants to start a lesbigay club at school.

First sentence:
First time I ever saw her was through the mirror on my locker door.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I really enjoyed Julie Anne Peters's By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead (review), so I had high hopes for Keeping You a Secret. Unfortunately, Keeping You a Secret fell flat for me. Maybe it's because of my high expectations, but I felt underwhelmed by every aspect of the novel.

I loved Julie Anne Peters's simple but elegant writng in By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead, but her writing didn't work for me in Keeping You a Secret. Compared to By the Time You Read This, it felt amaeur-ish and choppy. It just doesn't flow as nicely as it does in By the Time You Read This.

What annoyed me most is the preachiness of the whole novel. Of course a book like this should send a strong message of acceptance, but I think it was overdone. There are so many times when Holland goes on and on about how important it is to accept everybody for who they are and to do something about all the hate and homophobia in the world, even though, at least in the beginning, it doesn't fit to her character at all. It seemed too much like the author was directly telling the reader to be more tolerant instead of letting the story carry the message, especially since that took from the authenticity of Holland's character.

Holland as a character is just okay. For the most part, she's easy to relate to, but there are a few things that really bugged me about her - like I said, the preachiness made her voice somewhat unrealistic, but there were other issues, too. For example, I didn't get her problems with her mother in the beginning at all. Her mother keeps pushing her to apply to the best colleges, but Holland isn't sure she even wants to go. That would be fine, but she never does anything about it - even if she doesn't want to go to college, she needs to figure out what she wants to do, since it's her last semester of high school. How she went on and on about how annoying her mother's nagging about college is bugged me - I wated to shake and make her take charge of her life, instead of floating along doing nothing and blaming others.

Cece's character is just okay, too. Actually, she as her own character is fully-developed and complex, but I didn't get her either because of her relationship with Holland. The romance is way too insta-love-y for me. I mean, I guess it makes sense how Holland is so fascinated by Cece in the beginning, since she's never met anyone who's as open about their homosexuality before. Their chemistry in the beginning, before they get together, is well-done, too. But once they get together, their relationship moves way too fast. How they say they love each other after just a few days and always talk about how incredibly important the other one is to them, planning their whole life around each other and saying they couldn't live without the other one... all of that just didn't seem realistic to me.

That being said, I did like some of the seconday characters and sub-plots, for example Holland's relationship to Faith, her stepsister, and her friends Kristen and Leah. It was interesting to see how differently people reacted to Holland's coming out. I also liked reading about such a strong LGBT-community.

I did not enjoy this book nearly as much as I thought I would, but maybe that's just because of my too high expectations after reading By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead. Many aspects, like the fast development of the romance between Holland and Cece, and the preachy tone of the novel, didn't work for me. Still, I wouldn't say it's a bad book - I could see this being of great help to someone who's going through something similar to Holland's situation. But if you haven't read anything by Julie Anne Peters, I would suggest starting with By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead and not Keeping You a Secret.


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