The Secrets We Keep
Genre: Contemporary, YA
Publication date: April 28th 2015
by Farrar Straus and Giroux (BYR)
A girl takes over her twin sister's identity in this emotionally charged page-turner about the complicated bond between sisters.
Ella and Maddy Lawton are identical twins. Ella has spent her high school years living in popular Maddy's shadows, but she has never been envious of Maddy. In fact, she's chosen the quiet, safe confines of her sketchbook over the constant battle for attention that has defined Maddy's world.
When—after a heated argument—Maddy and Ella get into a tragic accident that leaves her sister dead, Ella wakes up in the hospital surrounded by loved ones who believe she is Maddy. Feeling responsible for Maddy's death and everyone's grief, Ella makes a split-second decision to pretend to be Maddy. Soon, Ella realizes that Maddy's life was full of secrets. Caught in a web of lies, Ella is faced with two options—confess her deception or live her sister's life.
-A copy was provided by Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group for review-
I don’t know why exactly, but stories that involve twins always intrigue me. The whole growing up with a lookalike deal sounds just really cool to me. Though I imagine it has its ups and downs >.< But this is what initially caught my attention with this book. Then the whole taking-over-her-sister's-identity plot line is what sold it. It does have its flaws, but I was overall pleasantly surprised with the depth this novel reached. I also found the characterization fantastic - yes, the main character can be selfish at times with a frustrating lack of self esteem, but her character was realistic and her voice, compelling. In short, Ella and her twin sister get into an accident, her sister dies, and from the guilt of having taken her life she decides her sister is the one who is going to live. Meaning she takes over her identity. Though this was completely unintentional at first. Due to shock, confusion, and a few innocent misunderstandings, people assumed she was Maddy and she just kept up the facade. Since her and her sister were very different personality-wise, and ran is very different circles, it was kind of fascinating to see her try to be someone she was not. There are a lot more cons than there are pros, she soon realizes. And while she's living her sister's life she also learns some dark secrets and guilt she never knew her sister was haboring. It's en effortless read with tons of entertainment value. It also touches on some dark topics like death, obviously, but also guilt, self-esteem, and accepting that who you are is who you're meant to be even if it's not on the top of the mountain, you know. Still, the journey to get Ella to realize this is a hard climb. One full of frustrations and longing on our part. While you come to understand the reason why Ella thinks she needs to do this for Maddy, and in a way it's her way of dealing with the guilt and grief, she's completely blind to who she's hurting in the process. Ella was not a nobody. She had people who loved her deeply, and she grossly underestimated how much she meant to those around her. This is where her selfishness peeps out. Why would she care more about not hurting Maddy's boyfriend than her own best friend who's obviously in love with her (everyone knows it, dude!)? I didn't get why she didn't consider Josh at all. I was also irritated when we find out why her parents give her so much breathing room. It’s far from being because Maddy is their favorite and she should have known this. I mean, duh! You asked for it. Le sigh. In hindsight, these complaints did not ave that much of an effect on my enjoyment of the book. They were simply a part of her character and personality. People who have low self esteem issues really do have a warped perspective of things just like Ella did, so really this only made her more human to me. More sympathetic, even, because she was so much more than she let herself believe.
Highly character driven and rife with social and emotional undercurrents, The Secrets We Keep is both engaging and thought provoking. Its characters are flawed, a tad unlikeable, even, yet genuine, and its easy writing style keeps you glued to its pages.