Sixteen year old Holland Jaeger lives with her mother, helping take care of her baby sister Hannah, whom she adores. She has a great job in childcare, a boyfriend even her mother approves of and a new found talent for art. But her relationship with her boyfriend Seth is growing stale, and Holland feels obliged to provide regular sex because he expects it rather than because she actually enjoys it. Then she meets Cece, a new student at her school who wants to set up an LGBT club on campus. Cece's presence alerts Holland to the homophobia among her fellow students that she never knew existed, and more importantly to her own feelings of attraction to other girls. The two begin a relationship but Cece makes Holland promise to keep it a secret until after she goes away to college.
Holland struggles to be out to herself before dealing with her family, friends and classmates' reactions. She is devastated by her mother's response to learning she is a lesbian, and feels guilty for hurting Seth. She negotiates this unfamiliar territory with Cece's help, but Cece has a troubling secret of her own.
Keeping You a Secret
is a coming out story in the same vein as Nancy Garden's 1982 classic Annie On My Mind
. It might be comforting to readers who are going through, or have gone through, similar struggles in their own lives. For straight readers it may give an insight into what many gay teenagers go through, and just about everybody who has been to high school has either experienced or witnessed bullying in one form or another and could relate to this novel on that level at least.
The characters come across like real teenagers, complete with irrational prejudices and naive assumptions about other people and the world in general. Holland's adoration of Cece and her desperate need for her mother to love and accept her are really moving. It's quite a page turner. It's also fairly short, and could be read in one sitting if you have a couple of spare hours or a short flight.
Keeping You A Secret
is a novel identity, love and acceptance, suitable for teenagers or adults. As well as the paper version it is available as an audio book from Audible
. If you enjoy it you might also like Lies My Girlfriend Told Me By Julie Anne Peters