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A Secret Word

3.07  ·  Rating details ·  222 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
Jennifer Paddock's incandescent debut novel spans fifteen years in the lives of friends Leigh, Sarah, and Chandler, beginning one fateful day in high school that forever connects them. While Leigh remains stuck in dead-end jobs in their Arkansas hometown, the more privileged Sarah and Chandler move to Manhattan, where Sarah seeks acting fame and Chandler struggles to make ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published April 5th 2004 by Touchstone Books (first published January 1st 2004)
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Aug 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary
What an intriguing little book. At 200 pages, it seems slight, but once you get into it, you realize the author's spare, direct, non-linear writing hits you where it needs to, no wasted fluff. It follows the story of 3 girls, 2 rich and 1 poor, in high school who witness a tragedy that indirectly affects them throughout their lives. Then it follows them at key points in their lives over the next 15 years. Each character has a unique perspective, and they are brutally honest and concise when disc ...more
Arelya J.
Apr 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
In “A Secret Word”, Jennifer Paddock does a superb job in tying together an ‘event’ (and I won’t give it away) that affects three high school friends— two wealthy girls and one a poor girl—over a 15 year period. The time transition defining the ‘event’ and how it affects each girl into her womanhood could have been clumsily handled and especially lost in Paddock’s soul digging into their respective characterization. The reader is drawn into the friendships of Chandler and Sarah, the two country ...more
Jun 26, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of literary fiction
Recommended to Brittany by: Myself
How I Came To Own This Book: Most *random* book own to date...I was doing a fake newsletter project for Computer Design in Cre Comm - the project was more on the design not the content - so I included a faux book review as well, and picked this book randomly cause it had a (prettier) cover at the time. Anyway I thought the plot also sounded cool and ended up picking it up.

The Plot: The story is about three women whose lives (I feel like I write this phrase all the time) intertwine over the years
Jan 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
A Secret Word: A Novel was another book (like Matchstick Men) written in present tense. So instead of "she said", it was "she says". Well, at least it wasn't like that book I read that was written in 2nd person. That was bizarre.

Anyway, A Secret Word spans 15-some years, from 3 girls' point of view. I thought it was chick-lit, actually, but it wasn't- it was better. It's a book about many things but most of all, sadness. Fit nicely with all the stuff that's been happening in my life the past co
George Ilsley
Aug 25, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is a hybrid between linked short stories and a novel. As a novel it is as if a strobe light goes off every couple of months or years and flashes on the characters so we can see them. There are supposedly three first person points of view -- however, these voices are not distinctive. Especially as they mature everyone sounds the same (especially Chandler and Sarah). Some of the earlier sections were previously published and are very good as stand alone segments. The quality of the writing do ...more
Ally Gravis
Apr 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
I rated this book four out of five stars because I enjoyed the change of formatting, it's different than what I usually read. However, I did not like that some periods of time were left out of the book without notice- it made for a sometimes confusing read. I would recommend this book for female high school students because it relates to high school life, and all of the journal entires are written by different girls.
Jan 31, 2008 rated it liked it
I think this book would have done better if it had just focused on one of the girls rather than 3 different girls. The character Leigh seemed out of place in the book. Chandler and Sarah at least talked to each other after the first part of the book. Leigh was barely connected to them. The time jumps often left me wondering what happened to the chunks of time that were missing. It wasn't bad, though.
Jul 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
A quirky story that's balanced between three mismatched friends, thrown closer together the day the girls go out to lunch and unknowingly witness the death of a shared boyfriend. It had potential to go directly downhill, but instead, Paddock manages the three lives of these girls without faltering. Where Crowell failed, Paddock succeeds creating a palpable non-linear story that is neither overbearing nor underdeveloped. Her first novel, I'm eager to read more of her writing.
Kris Atkins
I really enjoyed this book. I wanted to love it, but for some reason I didn't. The writing was excellent. The characters were very well developeed. Each distinct from the others, with her own unique voice. There's some sex in it, but only like 2 or 3 scenes and they conisst of about a sentence or two each. A really good, solid book, pretty quick read.
May 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
So far it is good, I like how one incident can leak these girls for so long. It is hard for one to admit things to everyone they know, I know this. I can relate to these characters, some things are kept from others because of the unwanted outcome of what they may think. I'll give this a more thorough review when I am done.
Jan 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Three high school girls are linked by a tragedy: while driving to have lunch at the local country club, the girls witness an accident involving one of the star athletes from their school. The tragedy affects each one differently and their three coming-of-age stories represent many aspects of female life.
Dec 31, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2009-read-books
It was interesting but hard to follow at times. The writing seemed to vary from well-written to thrown-together. It was, however, a very quick read.

In short: I didn't hate it but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it either.
Jul 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I am from Fort Smith and not much younger than Jennifer Paddock, and had two close friends in high school so this book hits very close to home. I often have a coming of age book rumbling in my head very similar to this one. By the way, many of these events did happen in real life.
Apr 30, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommended to Marjorie by: Erin Payton
This is a good light fast read. It's told from three character's point of view and is more like lots of mini short stories. There were themes of familes and friendship but I didn't really see any storyline. Very welll written.
May 27, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: summer-09
This book really lacked the ohgoshijusthavetokeepreading factor. It seemed that the 15 years covered were just skimmed through with little bits and pieces thrown together. Take off a few years add some dramatic events and it'd be something.
Lindsey Morris
Sep 01, 2014 rated it did not like it
I personally wasn't a fan of this book. It bounces between 3 characters over a period of about 15-20 years but there wasn't really a cohesive storyline or resolution. I would not recommend this to a friend.
Nov 22, 2008 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book, although not as much as "point clear". I really liked the separate stories of the three girls and also how they stay connected. It is an interesting look at how childhood relationships and events can make an impact on our entire lives.
Aug 27, 2015 rated it liked it
It was a good and easy read that was very relatable in certain aspects. Having multiple characters as narrators (each chapter, except for the final) made this a unique read. The characters endured success as well as loss while all being connected in sometimes the slightest of ways.
Bonnie Jeanne
Jan 25, 2009 marked it as to-read
A Secret Word: A Novel by Jennifer Paddock (2004)
Aug 03, 2009 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book. The characters were real and well thought out. I have a soft spot for books that take place in manhattan, as well.
Mar 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Nothing special. :(
Aug 09, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: misc
This is a good novel about three friends and their relationships with each other, family and love, over the span of 15 years. It's almost a coming of age story too.
Jun 01, 2014 rated it liked it
Easy and enjoyable read.
Sep 27, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
enjoyable throughout; wanted to read it before Point Clear
looking forward to Paddock's future work . . .
Jul 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010
The ending almost dropped it to a 3.5 but mostly because I felt like the author wrapped it up too quickly. Overall it was a good read, and surprised me with its depth of character in so few pages.
Jul 31, 2009 rated it it was ok
it was okay
May 06, 2008 rated it it was ok
This book followed three girls over a long perios of time. But I didn't like any of them. So I didn't care.
Rahaf Alfar
Sep 12, 2014 rated it liked it
A good fast read, the connection between the characters is still unclear to me however the style and structure of the novel are entertaining
Jun 17, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Different style of writing, but it was an okay book. I believe this was her first one. Her second book, Point Clear is much better.
Natalie White
rated it liked it
Nov 16, 2007
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Jennifer Paddock is the author of the novels A Secret Word, Point Clear, and The Weight of Memory. She received an M.A. in creative writing from New York University, and her short fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Stories from the Blue Moon Café, The North American Review, Other Voices, Garden and Gun, Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood, and The New York Times. She is also a tennis pro at The Grand H ...more
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