Monday, May 4, 2009

Review: Secret Keeper

Summary: When her father loses his job and leaves India to look for work in America, Asha Gupta, her older sister, Reet, and their mother must wait with Baba’s brother and his family, as well as their grandmother, in Calcutta. Uncle is welcoming, but in a country steeped in tradition, the three women must abide by his decisions. Asha knows this is temporary—just until Baba sends for them. But with scant savings and time passing, the tension builds: Ma, prone to spells of sadness, finds it hard to submit to her mother- and sister-in-law; Reet’s beauty attracts unwanted marriage proposals; and Asha's promise to take care of Ma and Reet leads to impulsive behavior. What follows is a firestorm of rebuke—and secrets revealed! Asha’s only solace is her rooftop hideaway, where she pours her heart out in her diary, and where she begins a clandestine friendship with Jay Sen, the boy next door. Asha can hardly believe that she, and not Reet, is the object of Jay’s attention. Then news arrives about Baba . . . and Asha must make a choice that will change their lives forever. -- Delacorte Books

I have been on a huge YA kick lately -- it's like I just discovered a whole new genre that I absolutely adore. And I feel really lucky because all the YA books that I've read recently have been terrific. SECRET KEEPER by Mitali Perkins is no exception. I thought this was a very well-written novel with a very interesting story.

SECRET KEEPER takes place in India in the mid-70s when India is going through a huge state of change. I really appreciated how the author incorporated some of India's political history and other pertinent cultural pieces into the book. I love learning about foreign countries and their customs, and I'm pretty sure that young girls will enjoy that part of this novel too. Much of what Asha and her sister Reet experience in this novel will seem very odd to American girls who live in current times; however, what I truly loved about this novel is that young girls will still be able to relate to these characters. The feeling that Asha has about boys and becoming a woman are universal themes to all teen girls.

And speaking of characters, I couldn't help but fall in love with Asha and Reet. While both girls were very different, they had a love that can only be shared between sisters. I think they were brought closer by their father's departure and their mother's depression, and I liked that they confided in and unconditionally supported each other. Many of the supporting characters were also wonderful, and I especially liked their cousin and Asha's love interest Jay. These two characters especially were some of the only positive things in these girls' lives.

Asha was definitely my favorite character in this novel. She was a strong, brave, and intelligent; yet she also was able to give of herself to the point of self-sacrifice. I loved how the author showed that she had issues with "becoming a women" and even challenged what was expected of her. There were many times in this novel where my heart just broke for her; however, I always felt that she was ultimately a survivor and things would turn out okay for her.

Since I'm haven't been a big reader (or even follower) of YA fiction, I wasn't familiar with Ms. Perkins' books. She has written quite a few other ones that look great like THE NOT-SO-STAR-SPANGLED LIFE OF SUNITA SEN and RICKSHAW GIRL which both fall into the age range of my almost 10 year old daughter. In addition, I think FIRST DAUGHTER: EXTREME AMERICAN MAKEOVER and FIRST DAUGHTER: WHITE HOUSE RULES look like part of a fantastic series. If SECRET KEEPER is any indication of her previous books, I definitely want to read them. Ms. Perkins also has a great website that you should really check out. And, if you think you or your daughter might be interested in reading SECRET KEEPER, you can read this excerpt.

This book would make a wonderful selection for our mother-daughter book club. The book is geared towards 12 year old and up, our girls will have to wait a few more years; however, I think young teen girls will really enjoy this story. There are so many complicated themes to discuss such as mother/daughter relationships, relationships between sisters, issues between men and women, and even friendship and love. And even though the book takes place over 30 years ago and in a foreign country, there are still so many things that young girls will relate to.

A big thanks to Delacorte Press and The Picnic Basket for sending me a copy of SECRET KEEPER.


bermudaonion said...

Sounds wonderful! I've been enjoying some YA novels lately too.

Alyce said...

I'm glad to see that you enjoyed this book. I've heard of it and thought that it looked like it would be interesting.

Beth F said...

As you know, I really like YA and I also happen to like an Indian setting (I read House of Blue Mangoes earlier this year). So this would a great pick for me.

Tasses said...

Loved this book too. Telling lots of folks about it as I think it deserves wide exposure!

S. Krishna said...

I really want to read this one. I have been on a YA kick lately as well and have been loving it! Great review!