Tell me a secret, and I’ll tell you one…
In the five years since her bad-girl sister Xanda’s death, Miranda Mathison has wondered about the secret her sister took to the grave, and what really happened the night she died. Now, just as Miranda is on the cusp of her dreams—a best friend to unlock her sister’s world, a ticket to art school, and a boyfriend to fly her away from it all—Miranda has a secret all her own.
Then two lines on a pregnancy test confirm her worst fears. Stripped of her former life, Miranda must make a choice with tremendous consequences and finally face her sister’s demons and her own.
In this powerful debut novel, stunning new talent Holly Cupala illuminates the dark struggle of a girl who must let go of her past to find a way into her own future.
Tell Me A Secret is one helluva read. I read it in one sitting. I took it out to dinner with me, cos I absolutely had to see where this was going.
I had to know how Miranda was going to end up.
I had to know what was going to happen to the other haracters.
I had to know everything. And I had to know fast.
The treatment is very different from most other reads. The narrative swings between Miranda’s past, with her sister Xanda, her boyfriend, Kamran, her friend, Essence..and her present, devoid of them all. How this happened is not revealed in a flash.As Miranda or Rand’s PoV oscillates and attempts to explore and understand what happened and what is happening now, the real faces behind the masks the characters are wearing emerge.
Characters are Holly Cupala’s strength. They have depth. They are multi-dimensional. They are unforgettable. Even the minor characters do not fall flat. It’s almost like everyone in this novel has a hidden agenda, an untold secret. Which should explain the reason I was up half the night finishing this book.
The prose is vivid and powerful. Here an excerpt:
“Crammed inside the house was every person under eighteen I knew, bodies crushed liked cigarettes and pulsing to the beat of a ginormous stereo. As I looked around the room, lit up by a red bulb in the corner, faces slowed down into grotesque laughter and shouts of greeting. Everyone was glad to see us – the leggy one, the curvy one, and the one who could stop Elna Mead traffic. I reached inside myself and pulled out “party girl”, modeled after Delaney and Xanda herself. I smiled at the faces around me, calling out loudly and giggling. The real me floated up to the corner of the room.”
Other things I liked:
— Some characters belonged to different ethnic backgrounds. The author never deliberately tells the reader so, but you just know. Like when Xanda’s boyfriend, Andre is described as cafe con leche, it’s kinda cool.
— Rand and her art. Rand’s art mostly consists of labyrinths, perhaps representing her search for her own identity in her world of chaos. And her association with art is not merely shown through “splashes of paint” or with the glimpse of a “pencil tucked behind her ear”. Art comes through somewhat like this:
“Vanity was a tall beautiful woman with a face like a mask. Envy was a treasure-hoarding dragon, dainty and diabolical. As I sketched in the dragon’s face, I gave her eyebrows like mine, my turtle necklace around its scaly neck.”
— The character names. Essence. Delaney. Andre. Kamran. Xanda. Rand. I had a thing for them.
— The entire canvas the novel covers. The setting isn’t restricted to a panoramic view of high school. It stretches on beyond. Important scenes take place in the workplace and at home, where the parents aren’t absent. Rand shares a particularly trying relationship with her parents, but in no way is the parental aspect compromised upon. The parents loom large no matter how negative vibe-y they are. Just like the setting, the characters too come from far and wide.
— I never knew where the story was heading. Sometimes it took giant leaps, sometimes unexpected twists and they all had me surprised (or shocked).
This might not be a book for everyone. It’s a dark book. There are no light and sparkly moments. At times Rand’s future as the pregnant teen, deceived by her friends and unaccompanied by her family, looks gloomily bleak. But then again, Rand isn’t a character to just give up. And in spite of the gritty realism of Tell Me A Secret, Holly Cupala doesn’t shake away hope from the story. There is hope and there is love. Just not from sources you go looking for.
A fast paced novel about one girl’s attempt to find the truth about her sister’s death and in turn unravel the tangles of her life, Tell Me A Secret is one of those debut novels that leave an indelible mark.
PS. In the meanwhile, it’s November or rather, NaNoWriMo month. So, who’s going the 50,000-word-this-month way? If you are, buddy me: Bidisha
PPS. Also, my blog’s birthday giveaway is open till the 10th of Nov. There shall be four winners and you can join in by clicking on the link just below the header.