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The Secrets We Keep

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About The Book

“Visceral…a vital, heart-wrenching account of one teen’s harrowing experience.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

In the vein of The Way I Used to Be and Kelly Loy Gilbert’s Conviction, this “exceedingly well-written, powerful, and suspenseful” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) young adult novel follows a girl’s struggle to reconcile friendship, sexual abuse, and the secrets we bury deep down inside to survive.

High school freshman Emma Clark harbors a secret—a secret so vile it could implode her whole world, a secret she’s managed to keep buried…until the day her best friend, Hannah, accuses Emma’s father of a heinous crime.

Following her father’s arrest and torn between loyalty to Hannah and to her family, Emma is devastated to learn she must testify against Hannah’s word in order to keep her family together. As Emma wrestles with this impossible decision, her fractured past begins to resurface piece by painful piece—causing the line to blur between her present-day reality and the dark fairy tales she writes to survive, all of which threaten to expose Emma’s long-buried truths.

The Secrets We Keep explores the complex, powerful bonds of friendship and family, asking the difficult question: At what point does Emma’s loyalty to another become a betrayal of herself? And perhaps the toughest question of all: Can Emma find the strength to finally unbury her secret?


1. You Remember the Beginning You remember the beginning
You remember your childhood as remarkably unremarkable. Though you lived in a big city, you were educated at home by your mother, so you’d grown up a bit sheltered and socially awkward.

Then, on the verge of adolescence, you remember the day a scandal drove you and your family from San Francisco up to rural Oregon and a town called Prosper. There, in the vastly different landscape of small-town public school, you did not fit in with your new classmates, possessing neither the right surname nor the code to unlocking the secrets of local etiquette—or so your peers were quick to inform you.

You remember how, for two long years, your only friendship came in the form of the countless fairy tales you devoured, all the while convincing yourself that you preferred the company of bound books to that of your schoolmates anyway. Thus, your life remained remarkably unremarkable…

Until several weeks into high school, when new girl Hannah Garber—older, bolder, unapologetic—blew into your life.

You remember that, despite the twelve months and grade level separating you two, your connection with Hannah was immediate and fierce, outsiders united. At long last, you had a true friend alongside whom to navigate all the beauty and cruelties of the world, a kindred soul so entwined with your own, it was as if you had both spent the whole of your lives searching for each other.

You remember strolling the high school courtyard arm in arm like royalty, ignoring the pitiful murmurs that had once dragged you down, all while vowing to each other—through bonds of breath and blood—that your friendship would last forever.

Forever, you whisper-promised. Forever.

And you remember that, for much of that first year in each other’s company, this was how it remained: twin souls cultivating a remarkably remarkable coexistence together, both of you unwavering in your certainty that nothing could tear you apart.

Until the day everything changed.

About The Author

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Cassie Gustafson hails from Northern California and majored in words, earning a dual-BA in comparative literature and Spanish at the University of California, Santa Barbara, an MA in English literature at Cal State Fullerton, and an MFA in writing for young adults at Hollins University. Before finding her way to writing, she served high tea at a five-star B&B, tended plants in a lavender greenhouse, nannied, and taught preschool. Cassie enjoys ping-ponging around the globe with her adventurous pilot husband and their fluffy black kitty. Depending on the day, you may find her working on her next novel or toppling over in a yoga class somewhere. Cassie’s work has garnered the PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award, the Shirley Henn Creative Writing Award, and the Ruth Landers Glass Scholarship. Visit her at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (November 8, 2022)
  • Length: 352 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781665906944
  • Ages: 14 - 99

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Raves and Reviews

Emma, caught between her love of her friend Hannah and the demands of her father to lie about the abuse, is a sensitive yet strong character who, with the help of a psychologist, finds her voice. Hannah, also an impressive and brave protagonist, believes that Emma is the victim of incest and wants to protect both herself and her friend. The writing is solid, and while not graphic, presents an easily understood picture...[a] much-needed book and an ­important ­purchase.

School Library Journal, starred review 

* "Attentively tackling themes of self-harm, sexual violence, and suicidal ideation, Gustafson (After the Ink Dries) delivers a gut-wrenching account of high schooler Emma’s struggle to parse her own feelings after her father is accused of sexually assaulting her best friend...the narrative’s dark climax and Gustafson’s visceral prose don’t shy away from the inherent trauma surrounding sexual assault, making for a vital, heart-wrenching account of one teen’s harrowing experience."

Publishers Weekly, starred review

* "An exceedingly well-written, powerful, and suspenseful novel that lights the path toward truthfulness and healing."

Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Awards and Honors

  • Kirkus Best Teen & YA Novel About Family

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