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The Secret History of Us Paperback – 21 Sep 2017
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“Jessi Kirby’s books just keep getting better and better, and The Secret History of Us is her best yet. It beautifully touches on all the most important things in life—love, family, friendship, memory, and bacon. I loved it.” (Morgan Matson, New York Times bestselling author of The Unexpected Everything)
“What makes [this book] noteable is its hyperfocus on existential crisis rather than romantic plot threads. This book is ultimately about [Kirby’s character] finding inner strength to live the life she wants to live instead of the life everyone expects.” (ALA Booklist)
Kirby skillfully weaves a mysterious plot. This solid, contemporary suspense story will apeal to readers who love Jenny Hubbard, Morgan Matson, or Laurie Halse Anderson. (Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA))
About the Author
Jessi Kirby is a writer for young adults whose first book, Moonglass, was named an ABA New Voices Pick. She has also written two other novels—In Honor and Golden. Jessi works as a middle school librarian in Orange County, California, where she lives with her husband and two kids.
Top customer reviews
I've had The Secret History Of Us sitting in my TBR pile for two months and I wish I'd read it before now. I always adore Jessi Kirby's books and TSHOU is no different. Liv is the perfect protagonist and I adore her character. I wish we'd seen more of Walker but I completely understand why it played out like that. How long till this author releases another book?? I need it now...
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The best single quote to give you a good idea of how The Secret History of Us starts out is:
-Today I learned that I'm eighteen years old, but the last birthday I can remember celebrating is my fourteenth. I graduated high school a month ago, but I've never been. I've stopped hanging out with one of my best friends in the whole world and I have no idea why. And I have a boyfriend--Matt--who I'm headed over heels in love with, but who I only just met today. He's a victim of the accident in more ways than one. A stranger. Or maybe I'm the stranger.
Olivia and Matt were involved in a car accident when a truck runs them off a bridge. Olivia is trapped in the car and Matt can't get her out. Thankfully, a boat was coming in about the same time as the accident happened and Walker was able to dive down and cut the seat belt trapping Olivia in the car. Once into the boat, Walker had to do CPR on Olivia which saved her life. However, being in a coma for a week and broken ribs from the CPR aren't her only injuries. Her parents are beyond relieved to learn that Olivia remembers who they are. And she remembers her best friend, Paige, but after Olivia has no memory of her boyfriend Matt, her parents start quizzing her to learn that she has no memory of the last 4 years of her life. Matt is devastated that the girl he's in love with has no memory of him or their relationship. Also as was mentioned in the quote above, Olivia has no memory of how she's no longer friends with Jules who was once one of her closest friends.
Understandably, Olivia's parents are anxious for her to get her memory back. But Matt is probably the most anxious of all. Not only does he want to get his girlfriend back, but he is struggling with some major guilt. He couldn't get her out of the car. He wasn't the one who performed CPR on her. He freaked out a bit when he heard her ribs breaking while Walker was performing CPR, and he's the reason why they were out driving the night of the accident. Olivia is slow to let Matt back in because what an awkward position to be in. You're told that you're in love with a stranger. Yet she doesn't know Matt at all. And she doesn't feel anything for him. But with Paige and her parents telling her what a great relationship they had and how much they loved each other Olivia feels like she owes it to Matt to try.
Another thing that bugs Olivia to no end when she wakes up is that she's no longer friends with Jules. She doesn't know why. And no one can really tell her. Even when she gets the courage to ask Paige, Paige doesn't really have much of an answer. I liked how Jessi Kirby worked this aspect. Without giving too much away, relationships don't always have to have a big explosion to run their course. There doesn't always have to be a huge reason why some people are only in our lives for a season.
But Olivia just can't reconcile the person she remembers being (at fourteen years old) with the changes that everyone around her is telling her that she's made. She's a vegetarian. She's no longer friends with Jules. She's in love with Matt. She no longer uses her once loved camera to pursue photography. And she can't reconcile the emotions she feels with the information she's given. She feels no connection to Matt. She misses Jules. She misses photography. She feels drawn to an old boat that she used to visit. And she feels like she owes much to the boy who saved her life.
There was so much depth to The Secret History of Us that is slowly worked out through the process of the book. Olivia learns more about herself--who she really is versus who she showed those around her. She learns that she was keeping some secrets, that she was in the process of changing again. And that she has more changing to do. She learns to trust her instincts. And she learns that just because love was present before, doesn't it mean it will last. And that where love has died, it can be rekindled and grow again.
-pay attention to my attention.
-...it's the worst feeling in the world to think that everyone who knows you has what they think is a good enough reason to lie to you.
-I try to remember the things that are fleeting, but carry something lasting within them.
My favorite quote is a bit lengthy and contains a little too much spoilers to share here.
I feel like my review of The Secret History of Us has been all over the place and has not done this book justice at all. I thoroughly enjoyed every word of it. I was hooked from the beginning--interested to see where, when, and if Olivia would get her memory back, why was she no longer friends with Jules, why was Walker so standoffish, would she remember or fall back in love with Matt, what happened in the accident that her parents didn't want her to know? All of these things. The Secret History of Us is the first book that's kept me awake at night because I couldn't put it down. I literally stayed awake past midnight to finish this book, and as a mother of a child under the age of two, staying awake when I can sleep is not something I do often. All of this means that The Secret History of Us gets 4 Stars from me. Have you read The Secret History of Us? What did you think? Let me know!
Story: Liv was in a terrifying car accident in her California beach town: she was saved but has lost her memory of the last four years of her life. Reconstructing her entire high school memories is daunting and she doesn't understand how the junior high school Liv has changed so much in that time. She has a boyfriend, gave up the hobby she loved, became a vegetarian, and lost a best friend. As she slowly rebuilds her life, she has a chance few can get: the ability to stop and really see what is important and what she has lost in the process of becoming an adult.
Liv is nicely drawn - the amnesia is frustrating but she doesn't agonize over it; instead, she forges ahead even knowing she likely won't have those memories ever returned. At the heart of her new life is the loss of a best friend, the realization that she gave up photography, and trying to reconnect with her boyfriend. At the same time, she has become fascinated with the boy who saved her, Walker, and wants to understand an unspoken connection the two share.
The story takes place over a short time period, after she wakes up from the coma she was in so she could heal. She slowly discovers the nature of the accident, how she is a media spectacle now, and she takes up the things she left behind. It's a voyage of discovery that doesn't have to end on actually getting her memories back; what's more important is to find her own person again, having lost it somehow through high school. It's a journey that resonates with many teens and adults as they navigate their 18th year.
The romance is very understated and only comes into play at the very end of the book. This may leave readers wanting much more but the focus of the story has always been Liv's recreation of herself rather than a romance.
The story is fairly quick to read and keeps readers invested despite the slow burn nature of the story. Yes, we've read this story before, and often recently, but Kirby puts a very gentle spin on the tale that makes it feel fresh. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher