Saturday, August 19, 2017
Book review: I Have No Secrets by Penny Joelson
Author: Penny Joelson
Release date: 4th May 2017
Genre: YA Crime
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Description: Jemma knows who did the murder. She knows because he told her. And she can't tell anyone.
Fourteen-year-old Jemma has severe cerebral palsy. Unable to communicate or move, she relies on her family and carer for everything. She has a sharp brain and inquisitive nature, and knows all sorts of things about everyone. But when she is confronted with this terrible secret, she is utterly powerless to do anything. Though that might be about to change...
A page-turning thriller seen through the eyes of a unique narrator, this is a truly original, heart-rending and compulsive book for young adult readers. Perfect for fans of Wonder, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and Looking for JJ.
My thoughts: I Have No Secrets is told in first person by Jemma, who is unable to communicate with anyone around her - she can't even move her eyes. I really liked that the book showed me a new perspective; I've never really thought about what life might be like in that situation, or read a book told from that point of view. You really see how powerless Jemma is.
One of the big problems for her is that she's really uncomfortable with her carer's boyfriend. Since the carer, Sarah, lives in, Dan comes round to their house often and makes fun of Jemma when he's alone in a room with her. Early on in the story, he implies to Jemma that he's responsible for the murder of a young man who lives on her street. Then, Sarah goes missing. Of course, Jemma suspects Dan, but she has absolutely no way to tell anyone else about what he'd said to her.
While I did want to know what had happened to Sarah, I have to admit that I got a bit bored reading this book. By her very nature, Jemma is a passive narrator. The plot moves forwards as people talk about things within Jemma's hearing. Someone goes off to do something, comes back, and talks about it. For the majority of the book, things happen around Jemma, not because of her, and I found that very slow and not particularly exciting. So much of the action in the main plot thread (the murder investigation) happens off-page. It really emphasises the struggle Jemma has each day, which is great for broadening the horizons of the reader, but it's not so good at making the story engaging. Overall I have to give this 5 out of 10. It's an interesting idea, but I don't think it worked to make an exciting book - and when it's focussed on a murder investigation, I think the story ought to be exciting.