The Secret of Me: a novel in verse for young adults
Starred Review from Kirkus!
Chosen by BookRiot as 100 MUST-READ YA NOVELS IN VERSE (2016)!
About the Book
A vivid, heartfelt tale of a teenager’s poetic quest to discover her place within her adoptive family and within the wider world.
Being adopted is a fact of life in the McLane household: fourteen-year-old Lizzie, as well as her older brother and sister were adopted as infants. But dry facts rarely encompass feelings, and what it feels like to be adopted is something Lizzie never dares openly discuss with her loving parents—let alone with outsiders. More and more Lizzie yearns to confide in others, especially her boyfriend, Peter. But something stops her. Will Peter think she is “less” because her birthmother gave her away? Would telling be disloyal to her adoptive parents?
Told entirely through the poems Lizzie writes for herself, this intimate, moving story gives voice to the thoughts Lizzie cannot utter aloud. Lizzie transforms relationships and events in her daily life—family dinners, the school dance, hanging out with friends—into blues poems, list poems, sonnets, sestinas, and free verse that delve into her secret wishes and her fears. Often Lizzie feels like two people: the person everyone knows, and the one known to precious few. But when a tragic accident occurs, Lizzie finds the courage to say who she truly is and to set off on a new path of self-discovery and truth.
In an Afterword the author discusses her own experience as an adopted child and how writing can help make sense of one’s life. Also included are a Guide to Poetic Forms and an Appendix of Poems (poems referred to in the novel, by Lucille Clifton, Hayden Carruth, Anne Sexton, Donald Hall, and others).
Available through major retailers.
Reaction to The Secret of Me
“Walking into this book is like walking into the world of people you’ve always known but now get a chance to be close to. Meg Kearney has written a collection of poems that tell an amazing story of loss, love, growing up, and forgiving. This book speaks to anyone who has ever asked the questions ‘Who am I?’ and ‘Who will I become?’”
THE SECRET OF ME Earns a Star From KIRKUS REVIEWS
“A sincere, at times poignant, novel-in-verse reads like a memoir and tells the story of a teenager who wishes to explore her identity as an adopted child. Lizzie (age 14) expresses her deepest and most personal thoughts about being adopted with her three best friends. But she longs to share her secret identity with her new boyfriend and to probe openly her biological background, even though her siblings (also adopted) view doing so as an act of disloyalty to their devoted adoptive parents. Kearney exploits poetry and its variety of forms uniquely to access and express Lizzie’s innermost hopes and desires and how they affect the choices she makes. A real balance of personal exploration as an adoptee and new teenage emotions creates a powerful blend in a warm character ready to connect and sustain that bond to readers. Not only will adolescents feel expertly sensitized to issues of adoption, they will get a good dose of real poetry with unique and inspiring language so often sacrificed for story in this genre. Substantive backmatter (afterword, guide to the poetics, reprints of poems Lizzie loves, recommended links and bibliography) makes this a first-rate offering.”
The Brattleboro Reformer, “The Bookshelf”— review written by Elena Eames
Brattleboro, VT, February 9, 2006
[Note: “The Bookshelf” features book reviews written by elementary school students in Brattleboro, Vermont, who have participated in the BEEP Literary Club, organized by Flo Nester, coordinator of the Brattleboro Elementary Enrichment Program. The students meet monthly to share book reviews they have written.]
In this welcoming and amazing novel, The Secret of Me, author Meg Kearney crafts a heartfelt story. Written in verse, this book tells how Lizzie McLane, an innocent teenager, winds her way through life with many unanswered questions about her adoption.
Two of Lizzie’s friends are adopted, as well as her older brother and sister. Confiding in these four, she finds it hard to let others in on her family’s well-kept secret. Lizzie’s family avoids talking about adoption, which troubles her, because her friend’s families are more open-minded when it comes to talking to their children about this subject.
Many authors write books about adoption; however, I found this book to really stand out. It was deep and emotional, explaining the never-ending questioning and emptiness that consumed Lizzie. This novel was very poetic and the writing flowed evenly.
Though I will never fully know what it’s like to be adopted, the book opened up and let me into the life of an adopted teen. It really made me think about and wonder what life must be like not knowing your birth mother and birth father. It proved to be one of the few books I have read that I cannot relate to on a personal level, but I still find to be much more than enjoyable.
If you are in sixth grade or above and are looking for a powerful book that you can jump right into, I would highly recommend this one to you.
Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA), April 2006 — The magazine serving those who serve young adults” – review by Susan Allen
On rare occasions one reads a book that is just plain touching, pulling the reader in and allowing one to feel what the character feels. Here is such a book. In poetic form, it is written in the voice of a fourteen-year-old Lizzie, who journals her feelings about being adopted. Lizzie’s siblings are also adopted, and instead of “when you were born” tales, McLane family members recount their “phone call” stories. Outside the family, however, the fact that the children are adopted is never mentioned. Lizzie gets into trouble with her older siblings when she voices questions about her birthmother. She is seen as being disloyal. Among Lizzie’s tight group of friends are two other girls who are adopted. They talk about their shared secret. Do they tell their other friends? Did the boyfriend break up with one of them because he was told that she was adopted? Should they search for their birth parents? Lizzie presents all these feelings and decisions.
The afterword tells about the author’s struggle with the knowledge of her adoption as she grew up. A section tells about the types of poetics that Lizzie uses. There are recommendations for poetry collections and books on poetry and several selections of poems by other poets that are mentioned by Lizzie as her favorites. This tenderly written books is definitely for the adopted teen but can be enjoyed by all others. It can be used within classroom poetry units with great success.
“In this tender, wonderfully written story of Lizzie McLane, a vulnerable teenager seeking the strength to speak the secret of her life, Meg Kearney draws the reader into a world that is both real and revelatory, a world of food and friends, candles and kisses and questions. After reading this novel, no one will ever again wonder why adoptees of all ages long so fiercely to know their biological parentage.”
—NORMA FOX MAZER
“Wonderfully written, often funny, always alive and honest, this brave book is about the agony of being different, of keeping the secret of yourself—and it speaks to the outsider and the searcher in all of us.”
“The Secret of Me is lovely and insightful, moving and thought-provoking, and a joy to read. This is a book for anyone touched by adoption and anyone who loves poetry. I couldn’t put it down, and I’m very glad I didn’t.”
—ADAM PERTMAN, author of Adoption Nation
and Executive Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute