Saturday, June 5, 2010

Secret Keeper - Mini-Review

I have a bad habit of checking books out from the library, reading them, copying down quotes I think I might want to use in my review, and then returning them to the library. Given the volume of books I read, those quotes don't help me that much if I wait too long to sit down and write the review. The books that I'm "mini-reviewing" left an impression on me and I feel that I can recommend them without hesitation, I just can't remember enough little details to write full reviews.

Perkins, Mitali. Secret Keeper. New York: Delacorte Press - Random House Children's Books, 2009. Print.
[Book cover credit:]

When Asha's father moves to New York to look for work, he leaves his family in the care of his brother. Asha and her elder sister Reet are both pulled out of school, where Asha especilly excels, and are forced to live in a house that is much more traditional, and therefore restrictive, than their own. As they adjust to these changes, their mother sinks into depression and money begins to run out. When Uncle decides that a good marriage for Reet, who is beautiful and attracting a lot of attention, will fix both of these growing problems, Asha must take drastic measures to keep her family intact until her father sends for them.

The best part about this book is the descriptive language that Perkins uses throughout. Everything is so lush and easy to feel or visualize. At the same time, she doesn't coddle her readers, most of whom aren't familiar with 1970s Indian dress and customs; she does not go to great lengths to spell everything out. Because she lets you kind of figure things out for yourself as you go along (with the help of a glossary of Indian words at the back of the book) there were no obtrusive info-dumps to pull you out of the story. Some people may want more description of the customs and traditions acted out in the book, but I was happy to get on with the story!

Asha is young and chafing in her girl-hood. She had a pretty free and open childhood, learning how to do things like play tennis and cricket, but all of that stopped when she got her period and she had to become a proper young lady. Further restrictions are placed on her and Reet when they move to Uncle's house. The contrast of their lives inside the house (always inside the house) to that of her male cousin Raj is pointed, both to the reader and to Asha. Watching Asha come in to her own and start to make decisions for her family in this environment is all the more amazing. Because the story centers around this aspect of Asha's life, as well as how her growing confidence can or cannot save her sister and mother, I think that this would make a great middle grade read as well.

I really enjoyed Secret Keeper and look forward to reading more of Mitali Perkins' books in the future! She's also a prolific blogger over at mitali's fire escape.

Book source: Philly Free Library


Charlotte said...

This one is on my tbr list--I'm looking forward to it even more now!

Bibliovore said...

Good to hear you liked it! Like Charlotte, this one is on my list too.