By: Nova Weetman
Genre: YF - Children's & teenage fiction & true stories
Published by: University of Queensland Press
Published: 28 Mar 2016
ISBN: 9780702254215


I don't know if you've ever seen a house burn, but it's not like anything else . . . 

Clem Timmins has lost it all – her house, possessions and clothes. Now living in a tiny flat with her dad, she has to go to a new school far from what she knows.

On her first day, Clem meets Ellie. To fit in, Clem reveals a secret and immediately regrets sharing too much with her new friend.

How can Clem face everything in her life when all she wants to do is run away?


It’s been six weeks since Clem’s house burned down, and now everything’s different.

Her Mum’s gone, she’s moved to a new neighbourhood, she can’t find her feet at her new school, and she’s carrying a secret that makes her so angry that it pulses through her like adrenaline.

Bit by bit she discovers a new kind of normal, but when a little lie becomes a big one it threatens everything that she’s worked so hard to build: new friendships, her new home, and the person she’s trying so hard to become. What happens when the secret she’s keeping isn’t a secret anymore?

This story of a young girl dealing with a life changing trauma is sympathetically and realistically written. Clem tells her story in the first person, and while the secret that she’s keeping is so private and deeply internalised it isn’t revealed to the readers until late in the story, it colours and affects every decision she makes in the narrative.

This is a really interesting book about grief and loss, but it’s not heavy-handed or sad. Clem’s a resilient character. She’s strong, and knows how to overcome the challenge of losing her home and all her belongings. The Secrets We Keep is as much about how we choose to overcome adversity and how we deal with negative emotions as it is about Clem’s personal growth as she takes on new responsibilities and moves towards adulthood.

Best suited for girls in lower secondary.

Reviewed by Lian