Title: Secret Keeper
Author: Mitali Perkins
Release Date: April 27, 2010
Genre: Cultural Fiction (South Asian), Historical Fiction, YA
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
It’s the 1970s in India, and Asha’s father has just lost his job. Hopeful that America might bring him better prospects, Asha’s father leaves his family behind, hoping to send for them after securing a job abroad. Along with her mother and older sister, sixteen-year-old Asha is forced to move into her grandmother’s house, which restricts the freedoms she’s known her whole life. Asha must adjust to this new way of life, to fulfilling others’ expectations instead of following her own dreams, and find a way to deal with the feelings she has for the boy next door, Jay.
Secret Keeper is a thoughtful coming-of-age novel about one young woman’s emotional journey in the face of shifting times, tragedy, and uncertainty. It’s set during a difficult time in India, during Indira Gandhi’s stint as Prime Minister. If you don’t know much about Indian history, this was a difficult time period for the country, full of violence and political turmoil. Perkins writes this well, creating an uncertain atmosphere for the novel. Readers are never quite sure when or how Asha’s life is going to change drastically, but they know it’s coming, bit by bit. If you’re interested in learning about the history of other countries through what you read, Perkins has created a gripping novel set against an important period in modern day India’s history.
It’s hard not to love and admire Asha in Secret Keeper. She’s headstrong and impulsive, to be sure, and while you may not agree with everything Asha does, you know it comes from a good place. She’s chafing against the restrictions placed on her, artificial boundaries she feels are unfair. Through Asha, Perkins provides great commentary on the differing standards for girls and boys in Indian culture, standards that remain much the same today.
The story of Secret Keeper is compulsively readable. Perkins keeps readers hooked on Asha’s story, as they hope things turn out well. The romance is particularly sweet, especially because Asha confides in Jay. He is the only one she can talk to about what is happening in her life. Asha and Jay’s relationship grows organically, but it is not the center of the story. This is Asha’s tale, about her coming into her own and trusting her instincts. Does she always make the right choices? No. But it’s hard to argue with her devotion to her family and how that conflicts with her desire to grow into her own person. Overall, this is a very well done novel that fans of cultural fiction should absolutely seek out.