Books Reviewed by CKT

The Secrets We Keep by Nova Weetman

Published by University of Queensland Press (UQP)

Clem is in grade six when her house burns down with her mother inside. Due to the ongoing investigation into the cause of the fire, as it is thought her mother may have started the fire with candles she liked to burn, her father decided to make a new start for him & Clem in another suburb closer to his workplace. Clem is forced to leave her best friend Bridge and she move into a small one bedroom flat with her father because they cannot afford to stay anywhere larger, replace any of their belongings or rebuild until the insurance company pays up.

On her first day at the new school, Clem is buddied with an exceptionally tall girl called Ellie. Being short, Clem feels smaller next to her. Ellie is curious why Clem is starting at a new school and where her mother is. Clem wanted to keep the reason why her mother was not with them a secret, but for some unknown reason, she finds herself telling Ellie her mother died in the fire six weeks prior.

As classes begin Ellie introduces Clem to her best friend Tamara, for some reason the girls do not seem to like each other. This creates a conflict for Ellie. During the lesson, when Tam is off finding a laptop, Ellie confides to Clem that her mother has breast cancer and she thinks she is going to die from it.

Day two brings Ellie and Clem closer together as they realise they both enjoy athletics. Over the next week Clem and Ellie enjoy spending time together after school practising for the athletics carnival that they will be participating in shortly.

As her second full week at the new school begins, Clem is shocked to hear Ellie is having that week off as her mother had just died and the funeral was later in that week. Clem wants to run, run away from all the bad things that keep happening in her life, but she is forced to stay. Her father tries to talk with her about what is happening but Clem keeps pushing him away and will not listen to what he is trying to explain to her.

One afternoon after school Clem’s new life she has created for herself, comes crashing down around her. The secrets she has been concealing, suddenly come out into the open and she is forced to face reality and what it holds for her.

The Secrets We Keep is an emotionally charged book that most young girls will be able to relate to in some way. We all want our lives to be perfect and different rather than having to face what it is really like. When we have a parent who is ill or absent for some reason, sometimes we wish we could run away or hide so we did not have to deal with the emotions this absence creates. This is the kind of book that will assist some girls to deal with these emotions in a non-confronting manner. The Author, Nova Weetman, handles these emotional situations with the respect and dignity they deserve.

Reviewed by Lynette Duffy
CKT Book Reviewer

Author: Nova Weetman
Title: The Secrets We Keep
Publisher: University of Queensland Press
ISBN: 9780702254215
Published: March 2016
Age: 8+


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