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The Art of Secrets

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  282 ratings  ·  89 reviews
A Fire Destroys . . .
A Treasure Appears . . .
A Crime Unfolds . . .

When Saba Khan’s apartment burns in a mysterious fire, possibly a hate crime, her Chicago high school rallies around her. Her family moves rent-free into a luxury apartment, Saba’s Facebook page explodes, and she starts (secretly) dating a popular boy. Then a quirky piece of art donated to a school fund-rais
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 22nd 2014 by Algonquin Young Readers (first published March 1st 2014)
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2014 Contemporary YA
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Community Reviews

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E. Anderson
I’ve never read a book quite like THE ART OF SECRETS by James Klise. Told in multiple perspectives, almost entirely in the form of discourse and conversation (with the occasional journal entry from protagonist, Saba Kahn), THE ART OF SECRETS is part mystery, part drama, and so very fun to read.

In the wake of a fire that destroyed her family’s home and all of their belongings, Saba Kahn has gone from almost invisible at her Chicago prep school (where she is a scholarship student) to borderline no
Forever Young Adult
Graded By: Brian
Cover Story: Working Cover
Drinking Buddy: In a Smokey Bar, a Package Changes Hands Under a Table
Testosterone Level: The Monsters are Due on Maple Street
Talky Talk: Whodunnit?
Bonus Factors: Diversity, Teachers Have Feelings Too
Bromance Status: I'm Going to Keep My Eye On You

Read the full book report here.
Kym Brunner
I loved so many things about this book:

1) the fact that it doesn't use quotation marks because the dialogue is summed up and one-sided––very unique!
2) the mystery kept me guessing and re-guessing "whodunit"
3) I met the author and he's a delightful person
4) tons of Chicago references that I could picture
5) it's multi-cultural and felt authentic

Awesome job, James!
First of all, this book has, roughly, seven narrators. As noted in the blurb, the story itself is a collection of interviews, journal entries, newspaper articles, texts and emails. It's bedlam, in the best way.

Saba's family is from Pakistan. She was born and raised here, but her parents are traditional. They are, perhaps, more indulgent than other immigrant families allowing Saba to dress in modest Western clothing and compete on the school tennis team as long as her body is covered. We learn th
*I received an advanced reader copy from Goodreads Giveaways*

The Art of Secrets is set at a private school in Chicago and progresses over the school year. Saba Khan is the main character. Her family's apartment is set on fire at the beginning of the year and the school holds an auction to raise money. They intend to sell a famous painting that was mysteriously found right before the auction until it is stolen and the set fire to later, before it can be sold.

I told a friend of mine what the bo
Fascinating whodunnit. Kept me guessing until the very end of the book. There are about a dozen character POVs, and they are all distinct. Well worth the wait for Klise fans.
Shannon Grieshaber
Such a fun, quick mystery - whodunnit style. While Saba Khan is competing in a tennis match with her Pakistani family cheering her on, an arsonist is destroying their Chicago apartment. A pair of do-gooder classmates decide to gather items in order to hold an auction to benefit the Khan family. While the classmates are cruising around the city, looking for reusable junk in alleys for the auction, they discover what turns out to be a valuable piece of artwork. These do-gooders are perfectly happy ...more
Nakeisha Campbell
The book begins with an insightful definition of the term “outsider art,” which, according to Chicago’s Center for Intuitive & Outsider Art, is: “work of artists who demonstrate little influence from the mainstream art world and who instead are motivated by their unique personal vision.”

It didn’t just set the perfect tone for the rest of the story, but it also perfectly described this book.

Klise’s ability to piece together such a fascinating story with journal entries, texts, emails, newspa
*I received an advanced reader copy through the Goodreads First Reads program! This is my honest review.

A mysterious fire begets mysterious abandoned artwork, which begets an equally mysterious art theft. In The Art of Secrets, puzzles within puzzles are revealed with rotating perspectives conveyed through journal entries, text messages, interviews and newspaper articles. It unfolds as an investigation, without a reliable narrator, which armchair detectives may enjoy, but the slow unraveling cou
Ms. Yingling
When Saba Khan's Pakistani family's house burns down, there is some suspicion that they might be somehow responsible, but Saba's private school, Highsmith, rallies around the family. They are given a place to live, and new students Kendra and Kevin Spoon decide to put together an auction to benefit the family. In the process, Kevin and Kendra uncover paintings by outsider artist Henry Darger in the trash, and even though the art might be worth millions of dollars, they still intend to give the m ...more
Medeia Sharif
Saba Khan is at a tennis match, with her entire family there cheering her on, when her apartment goes up in flames. Nothing is left and investigators announce that an arsonist is behind the destruction. It’s also possibly a hate crime since the family is Pakistani. Due to the kindness of strangers, Saba’s family gets to stay in a high-rise condo, rent-free, until they can get back on their feet.

The kindness doesn’t stop there. Everyone wants to know Saba. The most popular boy in high school noti
For teen mystery fans, The Art of Secrets offers a well-crafted puzzle with well-paced clues, plenty of plausible red herrings, and a satisfying and entirely realistic resolution. However, the author's choice to rely entirely on interviews, diary entries, emails, and other first-person, one-sided accounts results in a narrative that feels forced and heavy-handed. In order to fit in everything we need to know, characters speak in a way that is exposition-heavy and unrealistic. Readers may also st ...more
Claud (fictionalgeek)
Non- Spoiler Review:
I enjoyed this book. The plot twist at the end was something that I definitely did not expect and I liked the originality of the story. When the book ended I just couldn't help but think of how much a slap to the face the plot twist was. The way it was told from different points of views made the story that much more intriguing. Mr. Klise made it seem as if I were actually experiencing what the characters in the story were, the way he made different formats throughout the sto
Kate Alleman
I loved how this book showed how different perspectives can cloud the truth. Klise did a good job of raising the question of authentic altruism. Many characters appeared to be helpful, but their motives were selfish or disingenuous. I've seen this style of presenting stories in varied forms of communication (texts, emails, ims, phone calls, etc.) more and more recently. This style is perfect for mysteries. This was an interesting quick read.
Multiple perspectives and formats tell the story. Not exactly a happy ending, but it seemed realistic. More like 3.5 stars.
Kimi (Geeky Chiquitas)
Originally posted at Geeky Chiquitas

Reviewed by: Andrea (guest post)

Actual Rating: 3.5

Saba Khan and her family’s apartment burned down. That’s how it all started. It could have been a hate threat from somebody else, but it could be their own fault too. With friends helping them, they lived in a luxury apartment and Saba studied in a prestigious high school in Chicago. The school started a fund-raising for Saba’s family but then one artwork was revealed to be the work of a famous artist which wen
Saba and her brother and parents come to Chicago from Pakistan. Since Saba's grades are so wonderful, she gets a grant to go to the prestigious Highsmith Academy. Her apartment unit burns completely, while Saba is playing tennis, and her parents are watching. The fire department rules it is arson. Therefore, the Khans are without a place to live and have no possessions in the world. The kids at Highsmith Academy, some out of generosity, and some just to get some fame & future scholarships, h ...more
Saba Khan is the daughter of immigrants, and a quiet, tennis-playing, scholarship student at fancy private school in Chicago. When her apartment burns down, in what looks like an intentionally set fire, it triggers an outpouring of support from the school community (and an unexpected boost to her popularity).

Or at least it starts off that way. When a donation to a charity auction for her family turns out to be a extremely valuable work of "outsider art" questions start popping up: just who set t
I was first drawn to The Art of Secrets by James Klise because it takes place in Chicago and the author is a librarian. I was quickly drawn into the story, which blends elements like teen angst and learning to get along with arson and art theft. Saba’s family’s apartment burns in an arson-caused fire and they lose all their possessions. Her fellow students at the private school where she is on scholarship want to have a benefit auction to help the family, and one donated item turns out to be qui ...more
A Moustache Bookshelf
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I loved the fact that each chapter was from a different point of view. You actually can read and understand each characters' view of the story and it made you comprehension of the book a lot more easy and complete. It was very interesting, because there was no dialogue itself. You, as a reader, had multiple roles in the story. You were the person the character is talking to, and I liked that a lot. It was
Nina O'Daniels
The Art of Secrets is an aptly named title for this refreshing mystery. Told in vignettes by multiple narrators (with no quotation marks!), this story centers around a Pakistani family whose apartment was just destroyed in a mysterious fire. The private school Soba Kahn attends rallies around her and her family in the way of donations, including a fancy high-rise apartment, and an upcoming auction with all the proceeds going to the Khan family. Brother and sister team of Kevin and Kendra Spoon h ...more
Leanna Choong
I was hesitant to read this book as I thought the overview seemed too dramatic and actually a bit uninteresting. But then I began reading ...a couple pages in, I was looking to see the story through.
It was a fun mystery to try to solve. It was pleasing that I honestly couldn't guess the arsonists and thieves until the very end where we were given the answer. This ending was unsatisfying though. It seemed to be a very quick and rushed end to a well-developed story, it was also much less dramatic
Allison Parker
A terrific puzzle book with tons of juicy themes: victims & innocence, judgment & power, truth & deception... Lots to talk and think about after this page-turner.
Marathon County Public Library MCPL
Left homeless after a fire of unknown origin destroys their apartment, Saba Khan and her family’s lives are changed forever. Fellow students at Highsmith School decide to collect items for an auction to be held at school with the proceeds to be donated to Saba’s family. But when a rare and valuable painting worth hundreds of thousands of dollars gets donated to the auction, lies, secrets, jealously, deception, and greed become entwined with this otherwise altruistic act. Told through the voices ...more
This is one of those books that's very hard to rate, because in some ways it's excellent, but in others it really falls short. I love the multiple perspectives, and the way the narrators often sound like they are talking to someone... almost as though what we are getting is a one-sided dialogue (which ought to be a monologue, but isn't, because another person's voice is implied but missing). Some of the voices really ring true; others, however, are less convincing. Props to Klise for at least ha ...more
A great quick read. Really liked the style in which this was written and I was intrigued until the very last page.
I was excited to read this book as it was recommended by Gabrielle Zevin (author of Elsewhere and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry) AND the author (James Klise) was in the audience when the recommendation was being made. That took me forever to get through it. As interesting a storyline as it was, I just wasn't in a hurry to finish. Then, when I did, I was completely confused by the ending. (See below).

I'm stealing Ms. Yingling's review of the ending, since I couldn't do it better mysel
Katie Carroll
I received a copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley.

When arsonists destroy the Khan family's Chicago apartment, not only does their Pakistani neighborhood come to their aid, but also Saba Khan's private high school community. Shy and conservative Saba is suddenly the center of attention and the focus of a school effort to raise money for her family. When a once discarded and rare piece of artwork that is the centerpiece of an auction fundraiser goes missing, everyone, from the Khan family
This book is really unique; the format is different than anything I've ever read. It's really cool how many diverse perspectives can be included in a single book, and I absolutely loved the way everything came together in the ending.
Student Randi
This book was very interesting to read. The book was unique in a way since it was told in many persecutions and it also included notes that the main character wrote. It was kind of confusing at first reading it, but then I caught on.

Saba Khan is the main character of the book. In the beginning, it starts with her apartment being burned down. That part remains a mystery. Saba's high school hears the news and rallies support for her and her family. Before the apartment fire, her life was plain.
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