It’s hard to believe that Tell Me a Secret is a debut novel. It reads like it came from the pen of a seasoned author. Not only does the novel deal with the sensitive topic of teen pregnancy, it also digs deeply into issues of grief and how that affects family dynamics, and does it all well.  The opening sentence sets a tone for the story and the central character, Miranda. “It’s hard living in the shadow of a dead girl.”

The dead girl Miranda refers to is her sister, Xanda. None of the family has adjusted to her death, and the sharp pain of grief seems to drive them further apart. The summer between Miranda’s junior and senior year at school is spent working at a camp, but before she left, she lost her virginity to Kamran. Wonderful, beautiful Kamran who she thought was her one true love. “I returned home the week before school to life as usual in the Mathison house. Mom the drama queen. Dad the absentee, and me… a seventeen-year-old with too many secrets — and a mountain of my own threatening to blow.”

Miranda, or Rand as she prefers, finds out soon after school starts that she is pregnant. She also finds out that she has perhaps chosen the wrong friends at school, but seems powerless to turn away from them. Nothing compares to the social structures of high school and the power plays to keep them intact. And Kamran? Well, Kamran is more interested in Delaney than what Rand needs to talk to him about.

Rand’s struggles with the tough decisions she has to make in regard to her pregnancy, as well as the interplay between characters are realistic, poignant, and even humorous at times. Humor is a great diffuser when the other emotions are getting so intense the reader wonders if she can bear it. It is also a wonderful character element that makes Rand even more endearing.

Holly Cupala has masterfully captured the difficulties facing this teenager and everything about her character rings true. There is no pontificating, no moralizing, just a straightforward story that follows the experience of one girl. It is a delightful read for teens and adults.

When she isn’t contributing readergirlz.com and writing, Holly Cupala spends time with her husband and daughter in Seattle, Washington. These days, her writing is less about tragedy and more about hope.

Part of the author’s proceeds from this book will go toward helping sexually exploited girls around the globe.

Visit the author at her Web site   http://www.hollycupala.com  and her blog  http://brimstonesoup.blogspot.com
# Reading level: Young Adult
# Hardcover: 304 pages
# Publisher: HarperTeen; 1 edition (June 22, 2010)
# Language: English
# ISBN-10: 0061766666
# ISBN-13: 978-0061766664

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