Title: Tell Me a Secret
Author: Holly Cupala
Genre: YA contemporary fiction
Publisher: Harper Teen
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review copy from the publisher
First line: It’s tough, living in the shadow of a dead girl.
Miranda “Rand” Mathison has been living in the shadow of her older sister Xanda since the night Xanda died. The Mathisons are a good Christian family – but Xanda was the ultimate bad girl. When she died, Rand’s mother became determined that the daughter left behind would not go the way of her older sister. Mrs. Mathison’s efforts are fruitless, though, because when Rand falls for Kamran and becomes friends with bad girl Delaney, she’s poised to follow in Xanda’s footsteps. Rand is hoping that living like Xanda will help her understand her sister’s death – but a positive result on a pregnancy test changes everything. As Rand walks out the consequences of her choices, she starts to wonder if the story she’s been told of Xanda’s last night is true.
I had the privilege of interviewing Holly Cupala for a Literary Road Trip post and was delighted to discover that Tell Me a Secret is a terrific first novel. Rand is living every girl’s nightmare – an unplanned pregnancy. To any girl this would be a devastating blow, but to a teenage girl with an ultra-religious mother who doesn’t even try to know her daughter, it is an impossible situation.
Having been raised in various denominations of the evangelical church, I have had a lot of experience with people whose religion has more to do with saving face and appearing perfect than having authentic relationships with God and others. I really hated Rand’s mother in this book. Her need to have the perfect family, the perfect daughters, destroyed any chance she had of knowing them as people. I also hated the fact that Mr. Mathison did not stand up to his wife, and let her poisonous anger and bitterness wreak havoc on Rand.
In contrast with Mrs. Mathison’s faith, though, Ms. Cupala gives us Shelley, Rand’s boss, with her wonderful hands-and-feet faith, a faith that drives her to care for others, and especially this teenage girl who is lost in a pregnancy and a family that is falling apart.
Rand is faced with an impossible situation, and in keeping with that, the book doesn’t provide us with a neat, happily ever after ending. Rand’s story ends with hope and a long road ahead of her. I would really love to see Ms. Cupala come back to these characters, because I find myself wondering what happens next.