A blog about the amazing things teenagers do, about writing for teens, books for teens, and occasional forays into my world and the world of publishing.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Book Review Wednesday, Tell Me a Secret, Holly Cupala

I'm thrilled to present TELL ME A SECRET, by Holly Cupala, a well-crafted, sweet, and hopeful story about teen pregnancy and living with the death of a loved one.

Holly is my fellow SCBWI-WWA member. I was introduced to "Tell Me a Secret" when she gave me the promotional first chapter for the book. (See my post "On beginnings..."). The first chapter was awesome and I was dying to read more.

I bought TELL ME A SECRET just before I left with my husband to celebrate his (mumble, mumble) birthday in the beautiful San Juan Islands here in Washington State. I started reading when we got stuck with a three hour wait for the ferry and I was hooked. My husband asked if I was going to spend his whole birthday reading. I told him, "Of course not" (It was after midnight when I sneaked into the corner of the hotel room to finish reading the book.

TELL ME A SECRET is the story of Miranda, aka Rand, aka. Mandy--pregnant at seventeen and struggling to reconcile her sister Xanda's death in a household where

to speak of my sister... there's nothing more sacrilegious.
(TMAS page 1)

As her multiple names suggest, Miranda is also struggling with who she is. She has always played the good daughter to Xanda's bad daughter, but she's not sure if that's who she is. Her need to find a connection with Xanda causes her to become friends with Delaney, a "bad girl," like her sister.

When she finds out she's pregnant Miranda is left without support. Her pregnancy is another stain on her overly-religious mother's perfect image, her dad withdraws further into his work, and her boyfriend and friends all desert her.

The story is a very real and well-portrayed image of teen pregnancy. My hear ached for Miranda when she joined a "First time Mother's" chat room to find a place where she could celebrate the life inside of her, even if she had to do it with an assumed identity.

What they had in common, though, wasn't fear or resentment. More like joy. (TMAS page 76.)

I was totally hooked as I followed Miranda through her pregnancy and her search for the truth about her sister's death. I hurt with her, cheered for her, and as a mom, sometimes I wanted to grab her and say, "don't you see what's going on?" That made the book, and Miranda's character all the more real--seventeen-year-old dealing with a grown-up responsibility, and she made some bad judgment calls.

I enjoyed TELL ME A SECRET and would definitely recommend it to a friend.

And I LOVE the book trailer for this one. Check it out!

Now for the MOM portion of the review...

When I read the first chapter of TELL ME A SECRET, I wasn't sure if this was a book I would let my kids read. BUT, I changed my mind by the time I finished it. As soon as I came back from my trip I handed it to my twelve-year-old daughter and told her that she should read it. She loved it! Cupala handled the sensitive issue of teen pregnancy in a way that made it easy to discuss with my daughter, even though she's not quite a teenager yet.

Content and Issues:

Since this is a book about teen pregnancy, sex is obviously implied, but it is well-handled and the actual act is not described--curtains closed. There are scenes that include drinking and drug use. Neither are glorified, it's more of "this is how things are." There are consequences when the characters in the story make bad choices.

The issue of religion is handled fairly well. The overly religious mother is often the "bad guy" but I didn't feel like a judgment was made one way or the other.


TELL ME A SECRET can be used to open a discussion about teen pregnancy and dealing with death, but after I read I wanted to have a discussion my daughter was along a different line. The problems Miranda had with her mother made me want to tell my daughter that there is no mistake she can make that will keep me from loving her, and there is no problem she has to face alone. This is probably the best message I can get across to her now and during her crazy teenage years, and one I'll probably have to repeat over and over.


I would definitely recommend TELL ME A SECRET for teen aged and some pre-teen girls. (My daughter is a little more sophisticated reader than some girls her age.) The story will pull you along, the themes are handled beautifully, and the characters and situations are very real.

Good job Holly!

1 comment:

  1. This is such a great review! Nicely balanced. I haven't read any of Cupula's work and now I'm looking forward to it! And thanks for the discussion questions. I don't have daughters at home but I'm mentoring 2 teen girls with their writing and reading. One of them is quite particular about what she reads due to her religious beliefs so this type of review will really help me guide her. Thank you!