Book Review: Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins

Book: Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins

Published January 2009 by Delacorte Books For Young Readers|240 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

When her father loses his job and leaves India to look for work in America, Asha Gupta, her older sister, Reet, and their mother must wait with Baba’s brother and his family, as well as their grandmother, in Calcutta. Uncle is welcoming, but in a country steeped in tradition, the three women must abide by his decisions. Asha knows this is temporary—just until Baba sends for them. But with scant savings and time passing, the tension builds: Ma, prone to spells of sadness, finds it hard to submit to her mother- and sister-in-law; Reet’s beauty attracts unwanted marriage proposals; and Asha’s promise to take care of Ma and Reet leads to impulsive behavior. What follows is a firestorm of rebuke—and secrets revealed! Asha’s only solace is her rooftop hideaway, where she pours her heart out in her diary, and where she begins a clandestine friendship with Jay Sen, the boy next door. Asha can hardly believe that she, and not Reet, is the object of Jay’s attention. Then news arrives about Baba . . . and Asha must make a choice that will change their lives forever.

I’ve wanted to read this book for a while, and after reading You Bring The Distant Near last year, I finally decided to read Secret Keeper.  I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would, and I didn’t like it as much as You Bring The Distant Near.

I did feel for Asha and Reet, and I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to have a marriage arranged for you, or to know that your decisions are not your own to make.  Asha has her own path, and while it differed from the traditional path her family wanted her to take, she knew what she wanted.  It’s very different than the path that her sister took.

I found it hard to wrap my mind around the fact that their uncle could make decisions- such as their future spouse- for them since their father was trying to find a job in the U.S.  It’s a very different life than the one I know, and it’s not bad.  It’s just very different and hard for me to picture.

I did like Asha, and how much she wanted to help people.  Wanting to be a psychologist really opened doors for her, and it really seemed like a way for her to take care of her mom and her sister, especially after her dad died.  I also liked that she considered her diaries from her father her secret keeper, but I didn’t particularly care for actually reading the diary entries.  I also liked how Reet wanted to take care of her mother and sister as well, and how getting married allowed her to help them.  It’s strange how one event can change everything, and how we all need to make sacrifices.

2 stars.  Even though there were things I liked about Secret Keeper, it was just okay for me.  I had a hard time getting into it, and I wish I liked it more than I actually did.

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Book Review: You Bring The Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

Book: You Bring The Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

Published September 2017 by Farrar, Straus And Giroux|320 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Five girls. Three generations. One great American love story. You Bring the Distant Near explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture–for better or worse. Ranee, worried that her children are losing their Indian culture; Sonia, wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair; Tara, seeking the limelight to hide her true self; Shanti, desperately trying to make peace in the family; Anna, fighting to preserve Bengal tigers and her Bengali identity–award-winning author Mitali Perkins weaves together a sweeping story of five women at once intimately relatable and yet entirely new.

I really liked this book!  I’ve heard really good things about her books, and I happened to be browsing e-books on Overdrive, and knew I had to read it when I saw it.

I really liked seeing how connected all three generations of women were.  The multi-generational aspect shows up more in adult fictions, at least in my experience.  I really liked seeing it in YA, and I’m hoping we’ll see more multi-generational stories in YA in the future.

I really liked seeing how different all of them were, but being family really connected them in a way that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.  I thought Ranee was the most interesting- she really embraced American culture while still holding on to her Indian culture.  I really liked Anna as well, especially with her relationship with Ranee.  Anna really seemed disappointed that Ranee became an American citizen, and started adopting American customs and dress, but she still loves Ranee no matter what.

Something else that I absolutely loved was that they all identified as Bengali, but that there was no one way to be Bengali.  Each woman had their flaws but also their strengths, and they all had their own experiences with who they were and their own place in the world.

I will admit that the shift to Ranee was sudden, when the book, to that point, focused more on her daughters.  But I also liked that the book shifted to her because seeing more of her story really brought the stories of her daughters and granddaughters into focus.

I really appreciated the look at how to blend two different cultures- holding onto the culture of the place you grew up in while also trying to blend in and assimilate to a new culture.  I really liked seeing this aspect of immigration, and how moving to a different country can really change things.

I didn’t enjoy Chantal and Anna’s chapters as much as Sonia and Tara’s chapters, but I still liked them a lot, and how they still dealt with some of the things their mothers and grandmother did.  I loved the focus on family and family relationships and how much those family relationships can change over decades.

4 stars.  I didn’t love You Bring The Distant Near, but I did really enjoy it, and I think it offers something you don’t see a lot of in YA.  I loved the family and their relationships with each other.