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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 27 February 2015
It was readable, though I wouldn't read it again. Echoing others, Cece isn't likable whatsoever, she's flirtatious, but actually really annoying. I get that it's supposed to be a coming-out story, but given that this is aimed at teenagers who are probably trying to come out, having Holland's mum react in the way she did was a bit harsh- most parents wouldn't react THAT badly and it's probably going to scare a lot of readers back into the closet. Holland's hunger/obsession with Cece was well-written and did portray what it's like to fall in love, so the first half of the book was good. But once they'd kissed, everything happened extremely fast, they'd literally kissed once or twice and they were already telling each other they loved each other, without any real further build up of their relationship. And then the book just ended completely at random. The writing style was good though, short, impacting sentences etc. Not bad, but not as good as Annie on my mind.
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on 6 January 2013
'Keeping You A Secret' has been called the successor to Nancy Garden's 'Annie On My Mind' - I beg to differ. The two books both deal with similar themes (coming out, LGBT rights, discrimination, first love) but they deal with the subjects very differently, and they're set in completely different times. 'Annie On My Mind' deals with coming out in a homophobic but somewhat progressive American private school in the 1980's, whereas 'Keeping You A Secret' deals with coming out in a homophobic but somewhat progressive American non-fee-paying school in the 21st century. Although they deal with almost exactly the same situation, they do it in completely different ways. Whereas 'Annie' is the story of finding your feet and coming to terms with the fact you're a lesbian in a society that isn't likely to accept you straight away, it focuses much more on the relationship between Annie and Liza, and I think it paints a better and more realistic picture of a first relationship, 'Keeping You A Secret' focuses far more on LGBT rights and issues - portrayed through the character of Cece, who is a tad too stereotypical for my likings.

Where 'Annie' won my heart by having likeable, realistic characters who I could relate to and who I wanted to see happy, the character of Cece in 'Keeping You A Secret' really put me off. She is out there to the point of offence, almost to the point where she's shouting "Have I mentioned yet today that I'm gay!? Because I am! I'm really, really gay! And you all have to know about it!". Yes, recognising that gay people exist is important, but screaming it in people's faces is very off-putting. Yes, it's a stage some of us go through when coming out to really solidify our identities to ourselves and our peers, but unless you're the one doing it it can be rather awkward. She was almost entirely defined by her sexuality, which is just objectively wrong in a book for LGBT youth - it should be highlighted that sexuality isn't the be all and end all of of your personality, it's just one little bit! I may be judging her unfairly, but I found her character not so likeable, which I find lets down the romance between her and Holland.

Another problem I have with 'Keeping You A Secret' is the treatment of male characters. There are pretty much only two male characters worth mentioning - Holland's boyfriend Seth, and her mother's partner. Upon coming out and splitting up with Seth, Seth goes nuts and becomes completely and irredeemably evil. Yes, it is understandable why he would be very angry at Holland, but the extent the author goes to to show how awful and homophobic he is makes you wonder why Holland ever went out with him in the first place, if he's such an awful and horrible person. Holland's mother's partner, whose name I've forgotten, is basically completely useless and pointless. There is no point to his character. He is completely ineffectual. He only exists to establish that Holland's mother is heterosexual and to introduce his gothic daughter for Holland to mock in her mind (which is pretty horrible - it's an LGBT youth novel, isn't it supposed to be accepting of all minorities?). When Holland's mother kicks her out, he does nothing to stop it besides protesting for like two seconds, even though they've been shown to be on good terms. It was never indicated that he would be homophobic enough to condone kicking a child out of their home before. It would have been better handled if he'd helped Holland secretly afterwards, or been shown to be working on her mother to try and make her see things differently. So what is this novel saying about men? That they're either evil or ineffectual? This is another point where 'Annie' is much better - there are more male characters, notably Liza's father and brother, who are much more sympathetic than the men in 'Keeping You A Secret', and are characterised far better. Liza's little brother reacts like my little brother did to my coming out - with nervousness, uncertainty how to react, but determination to stick up for his sister no matter what. How her parents will react is one of Liza's major concerns (thus accurately reflecting one of the biggest concerns of LGBT youth) and her father's reaction was much more logical and well characterised than I expected. The other boys in the story do act with a greater range of emotions to Liza's coming out, as expected, but there is a reason behind it other than "they're the designated bad guy you're supposed to dislike".

'Keeping You A Secret' is unashamedly preachy. Or at least, I found it to be so. As I suggested before, this is characterised very much through Cece, who is out to the point of being obnoxious, and her previous girlfriend who is portrayed negatively for becoming more active in supporting other LGBT students. That raised my eyebrow. But it's mainly preachy in that everyone who is against Holland and Cece is B-A-D bad without looking at the reasons they object to their relationship or sexuality in proper depth - they're just designated bad guys, or if they do have reasons they're very shallow. I suppose this is accurate for some people in real life, but these are the kind of people who can be changed, rather than those who have such deep-seated hatred that they would take years to realise that sexuality is only one aspect of a character. In contrast, 'Annie' is the opposite - it demonstrates through the trial that happens at the climax of the book that all of the concerns (religious, moral, etc.) have no bearing on anything, and that discrimination is wrong and can be overcome with common sense. It makes you think more about why the characters who oppose Liza do it, and though they are the bad guys, you can understand better why they are bad because of it - they're also bad for other reasons, other than just opposing homosexuality. It doesn't shove any message in your face.

I know I pick up some books for LBGT teens looking for advice on life, sex, relationships, coming out to people, school, etc, but I think this book actually might scare some people back into the closet. The way Holland's mother reacts is a reality for some people, but is not the reality for all people.

Okay, so I've pretty much listed my major complains with 'Keeping You A Secret', so here are the good bits: Holland is a character you can relate to, and you can understand her position and her choices. She's put in a situation which a lot of young people find themselves in - choosing between their popularity and friends or being themselves. I can't really think of many good things to say about this book, and other reviewers have said already what is good about it in more detail than I have. I didn't enjoy it as much as I have other books aimed at LGBT youth, but it was okay. Just okay.
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on 11 July 2015
I wish there had been something of this calibre out there when I was coming of age and wished to express my identity. For so many who struggled to express how they found joy and strength in acknowledgement of their lesbianism but such difficulty with others disparagement. I think this book would help many young women begin to identify the path they might take in coming out.
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on 7 May 2017
The emotions are captured so well I felt as if I was coming out for the first time again! Really good and sure to help younger readers
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on 28 May 2017
It's a pretty decent book, though I did get thrown off by the use of flip phones at times. Basically it's contemporary but if you're reading it you have to take into consideration when it was written (though some things mentioned in the book still happen despite us moving forward).

The characters were pretty relatable and the process that the main character went through to come to terms with her sexuality was definitely realistic. The ending felt a bit unfinished but I honestly feel like that about all the author's books I've read.

Probably wouldn't go out of my way to recommend it but I had fun reading it.
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on 14 October 2006
The second book I've read by Julie Anne Peters, KEEPING YOU A SECRET is another sure-fire winner about the highs and lows of first love, the terror and joy of "coming out", and the good and the bad that is the thing called family.

Holland Jaeger is the "It" girl everyone envies--she has great friends, she's President of the Student Body, she's the girlfriend of Seth, she's the popular girl who can be counted on to always get along with everyone. That is, until Cece Goddard transfers in, and Holland's once-perfect life no longer seems so great.

The first time she sees Cece, Holland feels something that she's never felt before. Although sexually active with her boyfriend, Seth, having sex is more like a chore--she'd much rather sit around talking, the way they used to do when they were friends rather than lovers. As Cece flaunts her homosexuality, wearing shirts proclaiming herself out and proud, Holland wonders what it means when her attraction to Cece becomes almost an obsession.

College looms on the horizon and no one, especially her mother, will quit asking her where she's going. They have big plans for her, you see, both her mother, who became a single parent way too young, Seth, and the career counselor at her school. Forced into a role she doesn't want, Holland escapes into her art class, drawing away from her former friends as feelings and emotions she can't control rush to the surface.

As Holland realizes that she is, in fact, a lesbian, her perfect life is suddenly out of control. She's shunned by her former friends at school, her mother kicks her out of the house, she's forced to live in a run-down motel that's now a shelter, and she's not sure she'll be able to attend college at all.

Holland must learn what's really important in life, that it's not about being popular but about being true to yourself. As she loses old friends she gains new ones in the gay and lesbian community, and forms a bond with Cece that is beyond her wildest expectations.

KEEPING YOU A SECRET is a great, emotional read, pefect for anyone questioning their sexuality or their place in the world. A truly recommended read.

Reviewed by: Jennifer Wardrip, aka "The Genius"
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on 12 August 2009
This is one of the first books I have read concerning questioning sexuality and it is excellent! Holland is a character that you can really relate to. The story has sad parts about being accepted for who are and standing up for yourself. Although it also gives a thrill when reading about how the two girls fall in love and support each other. A must read if you've in question yourself or just enjoy a good love story!
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on 6 May 2011
This book brought to mind every emotion possible whilst I was reading it. Intoxicating, head over heels love, happiness, joy, jealousy, shock, gut wrenching pain etc. At first I thought it was a little slow and took a while to really get to the point, but after finishing it I realised that this was an important and relevant part to the story - falling in love (gay or straight) often takes people by surprise, but especially when you don't expect it at all. Also I thought the character build up was amazing, by the time the main character realised she was in love with a girl, I felt like I knew her inside out and completely understood her feelings.

My only problem with this book is that it is not longer, the ending leaves a subtle hint that things are finally beginning to look up for the two girls after weeks of change, arguments with family and hitting rock bottom. However, when I turned the last page I was so upset! I felt as if there should've been more, or a sequel (hint hint.) But that's just because I enjoyed it so much; I hated having to put it down. I could have carried on reading for days.

This book is a must-read for anyone (especially teenagers) struggling with their own sexuality and feelings. I wish that straight people would also read this book as it would open their eyes to what homosexuality is. The story throws out all stereotypes and really concentrates on true love, it really is a true case of one person falling in love with another person, without focusing solely on gender. I HIGHLY recommend.
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on 17 October 2008
I've just finished this book, and I believe this book would appeal to anyone who is struggling with who they are or their sexuality, it brings many topics and views to the front of your mind while you are reading and gives you a good few things to think about once you've finished!

Im not American and I do find that most books like this make me think that most American High Schools are filled with very bigoted, prejudiced people, I went to a C of E School and I didnt receive this sort of stigma in my school. I do understand, however, that many places are different in their stance on gay/bi/lesbian sexuality and can probably relate to many young peoples experiences and situations around the world.
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on 4 December 2010
This is a novel aimed at mid to late teenagers and speaks very directly to their lives and experiences. As a (much!) older person the novel is still accessible and enjoyable. It is unashamedly very American and can occasionally be a bit tricky to understand with no point of reference for non US citizens. The story covers both the heartbreak of a difficult coming out as well as the joy and complication of the first "adult" love affair for a couple. The love affair is handled sensitively but wih savvy that seems believable for the time and characters involved. There is real humour in the novel as well as pathos and overall it is very well written. If I have a criticism it is that the desire to be "now" and relevant to the more cynical youth of today means that the magic and mystery of first love, as so memorably written in the classic "Annie on my mind" (of which this is reckoned to be a successor) is slightly missing. Where Annie is all wonder and innocence Secret is realism and sophistry. I am sure this will appeal far more to your average teen bit I cannot help hankering for a little innocence in the book.
Buy this book: if you want a fairly realistic and ultimately uplifting tale of first love and finding yourself.
Don't buy: if you are looking for sweet romance or an uncomplicated happily ever after.
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