Tell Me a Secret by Holly Cupala is a powerful Contemporary novel. Miranda lives every day with the memory of her beloved older sister's death. Alexandra (Xanda) was the bad-girl, the rebel and Miranda worshiped her. But, after her sister's death, Miranda became what her parents most wanted, what she thought they needed, and she was the good girl who always followed the rules, never rebelled and did as she was asked. Until, of course, one unplanned night changes everything and leaves Miranda pregnant.
When Miranda gets back from her summer job as a camp counselor, she finds her world completely changed, totally pulled upside down. She's pregnant, there seems to be something wrong with her relationship with her boyfriend and turns out, the new best friend that she ditched her old best friend for is not a great friend at all (something that Miranda knew intellectually, but ignored because Delaney reminds her of Xanda). The whole school ends up finding out she's pregnant, which means her mom finds out and life gets really hard for Miranda, very quickly. Her mother disapproves and her father is (as he has been since the death of her sister) physically there, but emotionally absent, allowing the mom to be the leader in almost all things, and her aforementioned bad best friend abandons her for bigger and better things.
My heart went out to Miranda. Oh did my heart go out to her. It would be so incredibly hard to be pregnant in high school, but even harder to have everyone you know also shutting you out. Needing someone to talk to leads Miranda to find an online message board of women also pregnant at the same time and she creates this fantasy Miranda — in college, still with her boyfriend, maybe getting married etc and finds the love, acceptance and support through these women she isn't getting in her real life.
Everything happening in Miranda's life forces her to start taking stock of her life, her actions and her beliefs. She has to come to terms with what really happened the night her sister died, realize and accept who Xanda really was and what she wasn't and prepare to take care of something greater than herself. She grows so much during this book and I was so proud of her! The growth and maturity she shows towards the end of the novel vs the beginning is amazing.
The supporting characters are also incredibly well developed. All of them, from five-years-dead older sister Xanda, to boyfriend (or not) Kamran, Delaney, the terrible new friend, her parents, the old best friend and the huge community and religious network, all the characters were done so well. Some I loved, some I hated, some I pitied and others made me angry. Delaney was such a great foil character — she's not evil, but she definitely thinks she is above everyone else. She uses people, goes after what she wants anyway she can, regardless of who is hurt in the process and finds a way to make every situation about her. At first, I loved Kamran and the idea of him. Miranda's memories of the two of them are everything a high school romance should be. But after he finds out Miranda's pregnant, he reacts horribly. Not all of it is entirely his fault (a lot of people whispering in his ear) but he treats her abominably and steps away from his responsibility. He isn't the focus of the story, but he grows as a person as well, and by the end of the novel, I had stopped making angry faces when his name was mentioned. But for a lot of the book, he really is kind of a stupid jerk.
(Ahem — I just gotta say — If you aren't ready to be a parent, don't have sex. If you DO end up fathering a child — suck it up, man up and get your act together NOW or Ashley will think you suck... And, same goes for the girls. Grow up. It's not the baby's fault.)
The one weakness to this story is the resolution. The epilogue gives us a glimpse of how everyone is doing and it was just a little bit too... neat. It wasn't so tidy as to be unbelievable, and I'll admit that I do like the idea of things getting better, but it didn't fit in as well with the rest of the story. I like resolution in my books, but sometimes, especially in a Contemporary novel that has felt so incredibly real up to this point, there needs to be a little real left over, which means it should reflect that life doesn't usually come with a bow.
But that small grievance aside, this was an incredibly real and powerful story. The story itself is amazing and well told, but the real strength to the story is how much Miranda grows as a person and how much she learns about herself, about others and about life. This is a book that I highly, highly recommend.