Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2024) Featured Review: The Secrets We Keep by Cassie Gustafson

  • The Secrets We Keep
  • By Cassie Gustafson
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR
  • Release Date: November 8, 2022
  • ISBN: 9781665906944

Fifteen-year-old Emma’s life is turned upside down when her father is accused of molesting Hannah, her best- and only- friend. Life in a small coastal town is barely tolerable for the socially awkward San Francisco transplant, so Emma’s loyalties are strained as her father tries to get her to find evidence that would suggest that Hannah is a liar. Both parents make it clear that what Emma knows could destroy her family forever.

Author, Cassie Gustafson, invites readers into Emma’s world and memories through a deft use of second person point of view, then propels them through Emma’s current challenges using first person narration. The topic of sexually exploitation is difficult to navigate, but each of the main characters is thoughtfully developed and carefully portrayed in all of their messy humanity without descending into titillating, irrelevant details. The grooming process is accurately portrayed, but the book ends in hope as Emma is forced to confront her own abuse. Emma’s fears are fully realized when her family- as she knew it- is destroyed. However, the plot would lack authenticity if everything was tied up in a neat, “happily ever after” bow.

Teen readers who gravitate toward the gritty fiction of Kathleen Glasgow will find this book utterly engrossing. Give this to readers who liked The Art of Breaking Things by Laura Sibson, Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow, and Practice Girl by Estelle Laure.

-Jodi Kruse

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The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.
The Best Fiction for Young Adults Committee appreciates teen feedback as members evaluate the nominated titles. Teen librarians are encouraged to share the List of Potential Nominees under consideration with their patrons and solicit feedback using the link: https://bit.ly/BFYA24TeenFB