The Secrets We Keep (Nova Weetman, UQP)
Eleven-year-old Clem Timmins never thought her life could change so suddenly. After a house fire destroyed all her possessions and took her mother’s life, Clem and her dad have moved into a tiny apartment in a new suburb, each trying to keep it together for the sake of the other. On her first day at a different school, Clem confides in her new friend Ellie about the fire. When Ellie reveals that her own mother has cancer, Clem wishes she hadn’t said anything—she’s not ready to talk about her loss. Now Ellie won’t leave her alone, and a surprise letter forces Clem to confront some uncomfortable truths. Can she stop running and accept what really happened? Melbourne’s Nova Weetman is a versatile writer, and The Secrets We Keep tackles more serious themes than her previous two middle-reader novels—trauma is central to the story, although it’s certainly not a dark or depressing read. Clem is a likeable and observant narrator, although her thoughts occasionally feel too adult to ring true; however, her relationship with her dad is sweetly portrayed. The Secrets We Keep is a page-turning exploration of grief that could prompt some interesting conversations with young readers.
Carody Culver is a freelance writer and editor and a bookseller at Brisbane’s Avid Reader