Book Review: I have no secrets by Penny Joelson

Genre: Teen/Ya

Rating: 5/5


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 verdict: A brilliant read for young teen readers to show that you should never underestimate a person with a disability. This book isn’t all about Jemma and her disability but about the disappearance of her carer and that she’s determined to solve it.

This book deals with ableism, prejudice, discrimination and people around Jemma stereotyping her because of their lack of interaction with people with disabilities and their varying abilities. It also shows us how we take communication and movement for granted as well as our biological link to our families. Jemma is a foster kid with a brother with autism and a sister with behavioural issues who needs and wants stability. This novel shows us how stretched the foster system is particularly for children with disabilities and the impact of having children with varying special needs has on a family. Particularly with Jemma we see how discovering and establishing a relationship with a long lost older sister helps Jemma blossom and people start to see Jemma as a person with likes and interests instead of focusing her incapabilities. Jodi and Sarah help Jemma establish something independence and now that she has a communication device people aren’t as quick to infantilise her and slowly people’s opinions about her change to see herself and her abilities rather than her disability and that creates a deep bond. The novel also shows us the positives as well without being uber inspirational.

The novel also shows how technology is advancing and helping people with specialist needs so that they can progress and reach their maximum potential. Finally in regards to Sarah and Dan, the author subtly shows the reader what a toxic relationship is and a little about coercive control as well as treating people like an object that only they can solely own.

Overall beautifully written with the right level of grit and realism to help young readers see the true reality of having a disability without the protagonist coming across as whining or attention seeking.

As a woman with a disability I wish I read this in my teens and perhaps I could use it to educate my friends as well as it boosting my moral and self esteem.

Click the image to be taken to amazon so you may buy your copy.

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