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The Secrets We Keep by Trisha Leaver


Interests/Topics: twins, secrets, art, death, grief, family relations, friendship, romance

Curriculum Connections: English

Gender: F/M

Age: 14+

Blurb: I’m one of those people with a birthday at Christmas time. People always ask me what it’s like having a birthday during the holiday season, and my answer is always the same: I don’t know any differently. I don’t know what it’s like to have a pool party, or to receive presents wrapped in something other than Christmas paper. My birthday has been tied in with Christmas for my entire life.

I imagine that twins probably have a similar experience. People must ask them all the time what it’s like to be a twin. Their answer? They don’t know any differently. Just like my birthday has always been at Christmas, they have always been a twin. It’s not something you can change easily.

Ella, in The Secrets We Keep, loves being a twin even though things have changed between her and Maddy. They used to be so close: they told each other everything, were loyal to a fault, and, in general, reveled in the wonder that is twindom.

But since starting high school, Maddy has been different. She doesn’t want to spend time with Ella and rarely tells her anything. Ella is distraught at their growing distance, and learns to depend on others for comfort. But she misses Maddy, and no one can replace the bond she had with her twin.

Then, on a dark night during a heated argument, Ella crashes her car and loses Maddy forever. In a moment of overwhelming grief, Ella does the unthinkable. Maddy and Ella were identical twins: becoming Maddy should be easy, right?

But Maddy had dark secrets, something Ella finds out all too quickly. As it turns out, being Maddy is far more difficult, and painful, than Ella could have ever imagined.

Flavour: “Maddy managed to make the honor roll, but that was mostly my doing. I’d study for days, then cave when she’d beg me to pretend I was her and take a test she’d completely forgotten about. I never complained; it’s not like she took any advanced courses, so it required no effort on my part. I was getting so good at playing her that her friends couldn’t tell us apart. I kept my hair long and stopped adding pink streaks to the underside to look more like her. I’d mastered her voice as well, knew exactly how to raise and lower the pitch to master her sarcasm. She paid me fifty bucks to take an oral Spanish exam for her last week, one she ‘completely forgot I had.’ I scored her a solid 82. No point in getting her an A.” (10-11)

“If what he was slowly trying to ease me into realizing was true, then the girl next to me in the car, the one I killed, was my own sister. Nothing…not the terrifying inability to remember who I was, not even the pain that was lancing through my head could compete with that dark truth.” (42)

“They wanted me to be Maddy. Alex, Dad, Mom, the friends who had waited in the halls for hours…days until I woke up, only leaving when Alex promised to call them if my condition changed. Every single one of them wanted Maddy to live. That was who they thought I was, that was who they told themselves I was. Maybe the real problem here wasn’t that they didn’t recognize me, maybe it was that I was me and not my sister. How was I supposed to tell them the truth, the horrible truth—that the girl they’d rallied around, had begged God to let live, was gone? I couldn’t do it to them. I couldn’t do it to her. If they wanted Maddy to live, then I’d make sure she did.” (55)

“’Seven more months and we’re out of here, ‘[Alex said]. ‘We can start over and forget everything that happened. I can keep things together for you until then, but you’ve got to stop trying to make amends with Molly and remember who you are, how you got here, and what you were willing to do to make sure that nobody, including Molly, stands in your way.’ Whatever this was, whatever lie my sister and Alex were covering up, I hadn’t agreed to it. I thought I could put on her clothes, sit in her classes, talk to her friends, and make everybody so happy she was alive that they’d overlook tiny mistakes I made here and there. But this was different. Complicated. Too complicated.” (90)

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