Name: Keeping you a Secret
Author: Julie Anne Peters
Publication: May 4th, 2005
Source: Started on Kobo, Finished in PPBK
With a steady boyfriend, the position of Student Council President, and a chance to go to an Ivy League college, high school life is just fine for Holland Jaeger. At least it seems to be. But when Cece Goddard comes to school, everything changes. Cece and Holland have undeniable feelings for each other, but how will others react to their developing relationship? This moving love story between two girls is a worthy successor to Nancy Garden's classic young adult coming out novel, Annie on My Mind. With her characteristic humor and breezy style, Peters has captured the compelling emotions of young love.
-----Honestly, I didn't know what I was getting into when I plucked this book from the Kobo Store. I was bored last night, waiting for my sister so we can fire up our little New Year's Eve party, and decided to flip through a short book on my phone. I was feeling like a contemporary so looked up the genre and got a bunch of hits. There was no synopsis' on the kobo site, so I picked this book because the cover reminded me of My Sister's Keeper and the name sounded mysterious. I like mysterious.
This book is COMPLETELY different from what I expected. It wasn't what I expected when I bought it, and even after I knew what it was about, it was still nothing like what came to mind. I've read tons of books about tons of different things. Some so utterly and completely stupid and random. But I still hadn't read a book that focused on a LGBT couple. I've never actually thought about reading one before. I don't know much on the subject, and going into this (after I knew what it was actually about), wasn't quite sure how the book would play out.
Would the plot be similar to all the other romances I've read? Will the Lesbian romance get in the way of a good plot, or is it just a coming out story? Will it read like a contemporary romance?
What I got was a pleasant surprise.
Wow. This book is so Strong. It has so much love, so much hate. Wow.
At first I was disgusted at how the school and the society treated the gays. I was filled with so much anguish for them. Does this kind of discrimination go on right under my nose? Under the roof of my school and the alleys of my city? Well Rola, you stupid bafoon, of course it does. I just never knew how much it hurt. Being a girl who is totally, 100%, against bullying, this made my heart completely flare! Why should society judge people who have no fricken control over whom they love? and even if they did choose, wanted to, why is so 'disgusting' to the world? I mean, I'm guilty of sometimes forgetting that there are Gays/Lesbians in the world around me, that when I see two people of the same gender kissing or holding hands I have to stop for a second before resuming. I don't think it's wrong, It just grasps me so suddenly sometimes. There's so much we don't know about our own world.
So then here we have a book about a girl who has her whole life together: Student Body President, A+ average student, a dedicated boyfriend, a mother who is down her throat to get her to apply to only the best universities out there.... What more could she want? She asks herself that when she first glances at a new student, Cece, from her locker mirror.
I don't think I've felt a love so.. raw. so real inside my gut. This isn't just a love story, nor a 'coming out' story. It's a story about finding yourself when you weren't even looking. That life can take you by surprise even in the most unexpected moments. I've read some books that have made me feel this way, but god. It was so real. The author really dives you into Holland's shoes. She lets you feel the confusion battling with the love. The denial yet the pure desire. I really liked Holland. She wasn't one of those crazy denial freaks. She denied it for a little bit internally, but still let the desire consume her mind. it was a constant battle; a real one. I liked that no one had to tell Holland to come out. Or notice it on her, or her confusion and help her through it. She didn't even label herself, she didn't fricken care. She was falling for that chick who ate donuts by her locker early in the morning, and jammed out to the Dixie Chicks right across from her every day. I liked that. She wasn't coming out as a lesbian, but she was discovering a love. It made all the difference.
At one point when she admits that she loves Cece, she stops for a second and thinks what? I'm... gay? Like she had no clue that falling in love with Cece officially made her a lesbian. What a beautiful story. I felt every single emotion in my gut. It was almost unbearable.
The fact that Cece didn't come on to Holland, or push her into admitting she's gay and falling for her, and that Holland went to Cece all on her own... it was moving.
I think the best way to describe it is personal. It was so damn personal. You WERE Holland in between those pages. No one else. You weren't on that sofa with your family and the TV or the radio weren't on, everything else was gone when you were inside Holland's head and heart.
The most empowering part, after going through half the book and being embraced with Holland's emotions the whole time, that moment when she took the final step and finally, wholeheartedly admitted to herself and to Cece the truth, when she told Cece she wanted to kiss her, it felt like bombs going off in my stomach. because you could read the beginning over and over, and know the truth, but Holland never put it out there. She never once said inside her head Okay I'm gay and I'm in love with Cece. I want her now. No. Not once. It was only after that need took a hold of her and she kissed Cece, that's when it all came together.
It's hard to explain without experiencing it, so here's what I mean:
Swimming. Up, down, counting strokes. one, two, three, four. breathe in, breathe out.
Everything was her. The light, the dark, the day, the night.
She was my first thought in the morning, my last thought at night. She'd taken possession of my soul. She was inside of me, consuming me, compelling me to--
Drown it out. Fight the force. You can do it Holland, you're strong. Resist. You can beat the forces of nature. You have to.
Swim. Stroke. Count. Count.
Can't. Can't. Can't.
[60 sum pages later]
Then it happened. that electric current surged between us, through me, and tugged at my core. The pull was so fierce, I couldn't fight it. Didn't want to. She was close, so close, her head right next to mine. I could hear her breathing, feel her heart beating. The outside air was cold, but that's not what was making me tremble.
"Cece." My voice sounded raw, whispery.
I turned to face her, jamming my shoulder into the brick. "I want--" I stopped. I couldn't say it. Couldn't take that step.
She twisted her head and opened her eyes. 'What Holland? What do you want?"
I was shaking so hard. Do it. Do it. Do it now. "I want to kiss you."
I read this whole damn thing in one night. I couldn't stop. I read until 4 am, and gawked at the page when I was done. Then didn't sleep for another hour because I was thinking about it. I was shocked. Mostly because I wasn't expecting a Lesbian love story. Mostly because I wasn't expecting it to be so damn good and moving and heartbreaking.
Believe me, believe me, believe me, you won't even remember that it's two girls falling in love once you get going. All you can feel is the pure love and utter need in your heart and gut, so much that you wont even remember what gender is. The only other book that got this kind of romance right was Pushing the Limits. All the other romance book seem so superficial compared to this one. I can't even explain it.
I don't think I can experience another contemporary romance without going back to this one in my head and measuring them. I still do that with Pushing the Limits, which had one of the best romances in all the books I've read. This is seriously the 'what-if-it-were-girls' version of pushing the limits, with minor changes.
If you want to feel what true love feels like, right in the pit of your stomach, read this book. I can't even begin to explain.