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Book: Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins
Genre(s): Historical Fiction, Multicultural
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication date: 2009
Hardcover: 225 pages
Secret Keeper coverSummary: Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins is the story of Asha and Reet, two sisters who couldn’t be more different. Reet is beautiful, feminine, curvy, sweet and patient (everything that was expected from a teenage girl in 1974 India) her sister Asha is everything a girl is NOT supposed to be in that time and place – a skinny tomboy, athletic, argumentative, and competitive. But somehow their differences knit them together, and they are part of a happy family.
Things change drastically when their dad loses his job, and cannot find work as an engineer in India. When he makes the tough decision to leave India to search for a job in the U.S., suddenly their lives change. The girls and their mom have to leave their home in fun, modern Delhi and go stay with Baba’s relatives in claustrophobic, strict, old-fashioned Calcutta. 
Suddenly Asha is no longer allowed to play cricket, or football, or even to take an unaccompanied walk. Her gorgeous sister is attracting way too much boy attention. There isn’t enough money to send the girls to school.  And her mom is so depressed; she’s not much help either. The girls have a nickname for her depression – The Jailor.
Asha’s only refuge is the wide, flat roof, where she disappears for hours with her secret keeper – her diary. But soon, she realizes that she’s not alone up there. There is a boy next door, watching her. When they strike up a forbidden friendship with hints of something deeper underneath the surface, Asha is amazed that a boy would be interested in her rather than in her beautiful sister. Between her new secret friendship, protecting her mother from The Jailor, and scheming with her sister and cousin on how to prevent Aunti and Uncle from marrying Reet off to some Lusting Idiot, Asha has her hands full.
She can hardly wait for the much-wished-for telegram from America, which she hopes will say, “Job Found! Sending plane tickets. Come quickly!”
***Spoiler alert!***
 But before that day comes, Asha’s mettle will be tested. Can she bring herself to sacrifice her first love in order to save her sister from an unwanted arranged marriage?

To whom will this appeal?: Fans of Little Women will love this sweet, gentle and yet strong literary historical novel. The characters are well-developed, down to the grandmother, who may not have many lines, but makes her perspective clear! The pace is relaxed and the story unfolds slowly. There is some sweet, understated romance — in keeping with the era and place where the story is set. Those who like to read about strong female protagonists struggling with society’s cultural expectations will be fascinated.

December 2019
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