Author: Julie Anne Peters
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult
With a steady boyfriend, the position of Student Council President, and a chance to go to an Ivy League college, high school life is just fine for Holland Jaegar. At least it seems to be. But when Cece Goddard comes to school, everything changes. Cece and Holland have undeniable feelings for each other, but how will others react to their developing relationship?
Keeping You a Secret is a coming out tale, and I had some really intense reactions to what was going on in this book. Holland’s story is my worst nightmare; to have everyone you love turn his or her back on you because of who you are intrinsically.
Holland is a high school senior who’s not really sure about who she is or who she wants to be. I remember senior year of high school. It was a whirlwind. I was cramming for school and ACTs and SATs. I was trying to spend as much time with my friends as possible because I knew everything would be different after graduation. I was trying to finish college applications and scholarship applications, then trying to pick which school I wanted to go to and what I was going to do once I got there. I couldn’t imagine trying to deal with figuring out and accepting my identity as a lesbian during that time. But that’s what Holland did. During this hugely transitional year of her life, she figured out and admitted to herself that she was a lesbian. Wow.
So she admits and accepts she is a lesbian, and now Holland’s ready to tell everyone. Her girlfriend, Cece, doesn’t feel quite the same way. She asks Holland to keep it a secret. Cece frames it with pretty words like she’s trying to protect Holland from the backlash and hate, but we later find out it was for much more selfish reasons. Duh. People are selfish. I really disagree with anyone trying to say when a person has to tell people about their identity as homosexual. It is a personal experience, and only you can know when the right time is. It is no one else’s right to say you have to do it before (or even after) you are ready. And because Holland agreed to wait, someone did the honors for her. Again, I can’t stress enough how wrong it is for someone to take this decision away from her. I know that it happens all the time, but it is an incredible invasion of privacy.
Holland is “outed” by someone she cares about, which is bad enough. But her mother’s reaction is my ultimate worst fear come to life. Her mother says some truly hateful things and then kicks Holland out of the house. The words she uses are exactly what I was most afraid of hearing when I was coming out. It was raw, and unfortunately extremely realistic for a lot of people when they’re coming out. Too many people get told by the ones they love the most that who they are is wrong, perverted, disgusting, etc. And too many kids end up on the streets because of who they are. It is a sad, sad fact of where we are as a culture.
But even through all of the hate that Holland endures, in the end she is in a much better place than the beginning. Sure she lives in a run-down shelter for kids who’ve been kicked out because they’re gay. She lost a mother who resented her from birth. She lost some bitchy “friends” who never really cared about her. But she is happy, she knows who she is, and she has a much better picture of who she wants to be. And that isn’t necessarily who society and her parents want her to be, but who she was born to be. It is a very empowering ending.
Ultimately, this book just made me so grateful for my friends and family. I can’t say enough how much it means to me that so many of the people I care most about are still in my life. This book showed me how bad coming out can be. And it made me realize how amazing my support system is, and I am really feeling the love that they have shown me over the years. So thanks, y’all!! I love you, too.
The Whole Shebang: 4/5