Christine Williams's Reviews > Keeping You a Secret

Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters
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May 11, 12

bookshelves: young-adult, queer, lesbian
Read from April 30 to May 09, 2012

** spoiler alert ** I feel like I’m supposed to like this book, since it’s one of the first young adult lesbian books, and since I’m working up an outline for a similar novel. A full nine years after its initial publication, Keeping You A Secret is still a bit of a classic as far as young adult GLBTQ books go, and while that isn’t saying much, it was the most common pop-up on google searches in the genre.

Maybe it’s because I felt obligated to read it, or maybe because I’m burnt out at the moment, but I didn’t really enjoy it as much as I’d hoped. I commend Peters for unabashedly examining not only the process of self-discovery but what happens when you’re outed before you had a chance to come out on your own. The protagonist, Holland, is actually a lot like my main character, although I read this book after creating my character: Holland has everything going for her, is popular, pretty, has a great boyfriend, president of student council, etc. but it’s all built on lies she tells everyone around her based on perceived expectations of her. When you look at it that way, it’s no wonder everyone in her life abandons her when they discover she’s a lesbian: all of those lies collapse in on themselves, and you can’t blame Holland’s mom for feeling like she doesn’t even know her anymore.

I was really struck by the mother-daughter relationship, and by the realistic, if heart-breaking, portrayal of Holland’s descent into a street youth. We like to think that these kinds of parents don’t really exist, that they’re an overdramatic extreme that rarely occurs in reality, but from what I understand, it’s not actually uncommon for parents to kick their gay or lesbian teenagers out of the house. Even though there were aspects of this book that felt dated to me, particularly in the openness of the homophobia in what appears to be a non-religious community, it certainly got me thinking about how much hasn’t changed in the past decade.

That being said, I struggled with the over-emphasis on romance in this text. I understand that it’s often one individual who enables a gay teen to open up to the possibility of a gay identity, and I fully understand the importance of romance to the teen genre. I only wish that there had been a little less focus on the intense romantic bond between Holland and Cece, and more on Holland’s individual self-discovery.

Nevertheless, I think this is a really important and somewhat ground-breaking book, and I’m glad I read it.
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