Review: The Secrets We Keep by Trisha Leaver

The Secrets We Keep by Trisha Leaver
Publication date: Apr. 28, 2015
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Category: Young Adult - Contemporary
Source: Received ARC from publisher (Thanks!)
Summary: Ella and Maddy Lawton are identical twins. Ella has spent her high school years living in popular Maddy's shadows, but she has never been envious of Maddy. In fact, she's chosen the quiet, safe confines of her sketchbook over the constant battle for attention that has defined Maddy's world. When—after a heated argument—Maddy and Ella get into a tragic accident that leaves her sister dead, Ella wakes up in the hospital surrounded by loved ones who believe she is Maddy. Feeling responsible for Maddy's death and everyone's grief, Ella makes a split-second decision to pretend to be Maddy. Soon, Ella realizes that Maddy's life was full of secrets. Caught in a web of lies, Ella is faced with two options—confess her deception or live her sister's life. (Adapted

The good
The Secrets We Keep really surprised me! In the beginning, I just kept thinking this book was crazy. I mean, I knew going into that it was about identical twin sisters, Ella and Maddy Lawton who are as different as can be and one night, they get into a tragic car accident that leaves Ella as the sole survivor. Except when she wakes up, everyone believes she's Maddy and due to her own guilt and grief, she allows them to believe it. But knowing that and actually reading it are two entirely different things and it is seriously crazy. I can't even imagine. Still, it's how the author chose to evolve the story plus the engaging writing that ended up hooking me. My curiosity over how it would all play out overruled the unlikeliness of the situation (at least I hope this is unlikely in real life because that would be scary).

For Ella and Maddy, their relationship hasn't been the same since they hit high school. The book is told from Ella's perspective and in her eyes, Maddy went onto becoming the beautiful, popular golden girl with all the "right" friends and the perfect doting boyfriend and left her behind. On the other hand, Ella sees herself as the invisible, less-loved twin but at the same time, doesn't care about being in the popular crowd and is an extremely talented artist with an amazing best friend named Josh. As different people they just chose different paths and now, as Ella pretends to be Maddy, she finds out exactly what her twin has been up to and hiding (aside from all the moments Maddy begged Ella to cover her academically and with her parents). So this is where the book could have gone off the deep end with Maddy's "secret" life but instead, the author made it work. The reveal felt like something a desperate young teenager would do without understanding the consequences.

But ultimately, the mystery isn't the heart of the book. It's Ella, her complicated relationship with Maddy, and how each thought the other had it better. All this time Ella saw herself as less than her twin and stepping into Maddy's shoes seemed to magnify those insecurities.. until it doesn't anymore. Ella gets perspective and starts to appreciate her life, how she lived and who was in it (ahem, Josh!). And I think it was that slow-building epiphany that made me enjoy the book in the end.

(Minor) Reservations
Even though the book wraps up neatly by the last page, I wanted the actual closure portion to be more fleshed out. A lot is revealed and it effects so many people but the overall reaction was not the big emotional punch I anticipated. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of little, great moments along the way but I thought the book was missing THE moment.

Do I recommend?
If you're intrigued by the premise, I do recommend checking it out. It's not for everyone but while it wasn't a must-read/buy for me, I did enjoy it for what it was.

Collaborative feature with Alexa! 

Do you have a memento/gift from your BFF that you've kept?
I am really sentimental so I keep a lot of things. I was trying to think of items that are from pre-college BFFs (although at this point we have known each other for 14 years!) and something did come to mind. I have this box filled to the brim with high school mementos. And one of the mementos is a stack of mini-notebooks. My best friends at the time and I were notorious for writing notes to each other constantly. It got to the point where instead of ripping out sheets of paper, we decided to buy mini-notebooks (usually Hello Kitty ones) specifically to pass around for our notes. I haven't read them in a while but I can't see myself parting with them either. It's such a nostalgic, funny and embarrassing look into who I was at the time and what those girls meant to me even if we aren't in touch anymore. 


  1. This was one of my most anticipated 2015 titles but sadly it kind of fell short for me. I loved the cover and the premise but like you I kind of wanted more closure (I even wanted some for Maddy though of course that's impossible given the story) and I wish the story had started at a different point so that the focus was slightly more on the aftermath.

  2. As with missprint, The Secrets We Keep is also one of my most anticipated titles of 2015. However, the mixed to mostly negative reviews that I've seen has turned me off quite a bit. I think I'm still going to pick this up but definitely not soon.

    Great review, Chelly!

  3. Oh my gosh!! My friends and I did the same thing you guys did, writing notes in little notebooks that we passed around. I got to be the keeper of those notebooks for some reason, so they're all still in my parent's house in the Philippines! And as for The Secrets We Keep, I liked it well enough and was admittedly curious to see how it would all play out. But it didn't quite resonate with me the way I would have wanted it to!


with love,