The Secrets We Keep

Nova Weetman

The Secrets We Keep
University of Queensland Press
28 March 2016

The Secrets We Keep

Nova Weetman

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?


As a fan of Nova Weetman’s 2015 YA novel, Frankie and Joely, a perfectly pitched Australian story about the intensity of teen friendship, I was keen to see what was in store for younger readers.

The Secrets We Keep opens with a powerful image as our narrator, Clem, describes the day she watched her house burn down. Clem and her father, who are extremely close, move to a tiny apartment in a different suburb and Clem changes school with only two terms of Grade 6 to go. That alone would be tricky to navigate but, in addition, money is tight, how the fire started is unclear, and Clem has a weightier secret on her mind that even the reader isn’t allowed to know, though we’re certain that something doesn’t add up.

As Clem’s story progresses and she’s offered friendship by a girl in her class, we realise that although she’s kind, self-effacing, likeable and funny, she isn’t completely reliable either as a narrator or a friend. The issue of mental illness is delicately handled, appropriately for this age group. Clem isn’t perfect, but she’s doing her best and she gets to the truth in the end. Tween readers will relish the journey with her. Highly recommended for readers aged around 10 and up.

Emily Gale is a freelance reviewer.

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