Things I’ll Never Say: Stories About Our Secret Selves
Edited by Ann Angel
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published March 24th 2015 by Candlewick Press
In the 15 short stories featured in the new YA collection Things I’ll Never Say: Stories About Our Secret Selves edited by Ann Angel, the characters all struggle with a secret. Some of the secrets are a means of self-preservation while others are turning-points in dark fairy tales. Others, still, will forever change close relationships. Most of these stories had a tight hold on me. Three, in particular, will stay with me for a long time.
In the poignant story “The We-Are–Like-Everybody-Else Game” by Ellen Wittlinger, we feel the pressure rise in Lucy as she stands up to her controlling friend Claire. Claire who dictates what Lucy should say and do. Claire who knows the family secret that could shatter Lucy’s world. As the dynamics shifts and the tension builds, Lucy thinks, “I’ve never been able to stand up to Claire. She’s the only person who knows what goes on at my house, and she’s kept the secret for years.” That’s when we realize just how toxic their friendship is and brace ourselves for the wrath of a bully who wants to expose a hoarding nightmare.
An effective subway train metaphor runs throughout “For a Moment, Underground” by Kekla Magoon. The train is just like Sally’s secret. She’s a beautiful teenager struggling with an eating disorder. She thinks of the train as a “low, rumbling underground thing that once seemed invisible, but now that you’ve been away from it for a while, you realize how present it is.” Sally could just as easily be referring to the cause of her secret. The secret she relives when returning home, in the city, after being in boarding school for several months.
In my favorite story—“Three-Four Time” by Erica L. Kaufman—Imogene is a good student, girlfriend, and trumpet player who tries to hide her difficult home life. Her secret: a depressed, alcoholic mother. Imogene’s story crescendos in such a way to break your heart. Kaufman has an insightful way of grabbing your attention when Imogene talks about her mother: “I love her laugh. Sometimes I forget that there are things about my mother worth loving, that there are moments worth remembering. It’s because every good moment is really just a pause, a rest, a beat before the cacophony of the rest of her crashes in.”
These YA stories are fresh and thought-provoking. So are the stories about a guy who gives herpes to his girlfriend, about a teen girl who makes advances to her teacher, and about a teenage father who gives up his baby for adoption. I relished nearly every one save for a couple fantasy stories that didn’t speak to me; they were lighter and didn’t capture the serious, heart-rending mood of the book.
I discovered new, inspiring YA authors. I urge teens and educators who enjoy raw, perceptive narratives featuring youths to get their hands on a copy of this book.
*I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.*