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Secret Keeper

Review

Secret Keeper

Times are tough in 1974 India. Poor people line the streets begging for money, and jobs are scarce. Sixteen-year-old Asha Gupta and her family are affected as well. Asha’s father is out of work, and with no prospects looming, he decides to go to America to get a job. While he is away, Asha, her older sister Reet and their mother live with relatives in Calcutta. 

Asha’s uncle, aunt, grandmother and older cousin don’t seem very happy to see them; only the younger twins are excited by their arrival. But with three extra mouths to feed, plus more bodies crowding the house, Asha can understand their resentment a little. What she can’t seem to wrap her head around are the very strict cultural rules Calcutta insists upon, which are much more stringent than in the city of Delhi where she was born. She can’t even walk down the street by herself. Stuck in the house day after day, loneliness gnaws on Asha’s nerves, as does the lack of privacy. She makes her way up to the rooftop to pour out her heart in her journal. There she can confide her secrets, such as the devastation she feels at having to drop out of school, giving up her dream of studying psychiatry in college, and how she and her sister try to fight her mother’s deep depression.

Then she meets the fellow next door. Jay is a bit strange, and for the longest time he would watch Asha through the curtains while she sat on the roof. Then they start talking, something else forbidden by her culture. Asha learns that Jay is an artist, and he wants to paint Asha. They become friends, forbidden ones, and Asha begins to feel even more for him. But then things go from bad to worse in the Gupta household. Asha’s uncle starts looking to make wedding arrangements for Reet, and Asha is afraid for her sister. Asha boldly makes some rash decisions in hopes of keeping Reet safe and happy. These choices will change everyone’s lives forever.

Mitali Perkins is no stranger to adjusting to various cultures, as she has traveled all over the world. Nor is she a stranger to writing awesome young adult fiction, and she has given us another winner with SECRET KEEPER. This touching story pulls the audience in and doesn’t let go, as the pages slip away swiftly and easily. The character of Asha quickly becomes a friend to admire, sympathize with and applaud. Readers will get a taste of the Indian culture --- some of its food, clothes and rules for society --- and will see that teenagers of other cultures aren’t so different, with needs for privacy and friendship, dreams for careers and the future, caring for family and longing for freedom. Perkins also offers an unexpected, and thus rather refreshing, ending to her enchanting story. Fans will look forward to more novels from this talented author. 

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Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman on October 18, 2011

Secret Keeper
by Mitali Perkins

  • Publication Date: January 13, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 225 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0385733402
  • ISBN-13: 9780385733403