Keeping Secrets

The Path You Choose #4

Young Adult - Social Issues
172 Pages
Reviewed on 08/08/2023
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Pikasho Deka for Readers' Favorite

Keeping Secrets is the fourth installment of Jill Ammon Vanderwood's award-winning The Path You Choose series. In this book, you, the reader, are one of the main protagonists. You will get fifteen different endings to the storylines depending on your choices. At a middle school girls' slumber party, a group of friends decides to play a game that involves revealing each of their deepest and darkest secrets. One by one, the girls tell their stories. One is depressed, one girl recently caught her mother having an affair with a stranger, another is addicted to drugs and alcohol, and yet another has been sexually abused by a close relative. As the secrets pour out, one of them, Kaylee, feels too uncomfortable and leaves the house. What is Kaylee's secret? Will the friends be able to find out and help her?

This is the second book I've read from this series, and one of my main takeaways is that author Jill Ammon Vanderwood has a knack for shedding light on crucial social issues using engaging storylines that captivate you. Vanderwood's nonlinear and interactive approach to the narrative makes for an immersive reading experience where the reader feels like and is a part of the story. Topics like addiction, anxiety and depression, abuse, teenage pregnancy, etc., are all handled with sensitivity and nuances, making Keeping Secrets suitable for young adults. There is also a mystery element to one of the storylines that will appeal to sleuth story lovers. Kerah Diez's beautiful illustrations enhance the reading experience all the more. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and can't recommend it highly enough.

Samantha Dewitt (Rivera)

Keeping secrets is never easy, but it's nearly impossible for this group of girls because the secrets that these middle school girls hide are more than sneaking out of the house or having a crush on the popular kid in school. Each has experienced something life-changing, and over a night, they will share those secrets with their friends. But this story isn't going to be told all in one go because Keeping Secrets: The Path You Choose #4 by Jill Ammon Vanderwood, is a "choose your own adventure" story, which kind of makes it even better, don't you think?

Each girl in this story has a wild and crazy story that starts with a sleepover. The fact that these girls are just a group of friends looking for a fun night together and a way to bond (by telling secrets) just feels very realistic and makes you feel like you're hanging out with your own friends. The way that each of the girls reveals their secret and the way that they work through what they're going to do next, however, is entirely up to you. That's what makes this book so much fun. I have always loved choose-your-own style books because they make it easy to get right in the middle of what's happening. You get to choose every part of the story, so why wouldn't you get drawn in? With Keeping Secrets: The Path You Choose #4 by Jill Ammon Vanderwood, you won't want to put this book down.

Courtnee Turner Hoyle

Jill Ammon Vanderwood approaches secrets in a new way in her middle-school story, Keeping Secrets: The Path You Choose #4. The author puts the reader in control by telling the story of a group of close friends at a sleepover as they share secrets. Many girls have deep—and sometimes dark—secrets and it’s up to the reader to choose the advice the group will follow by picking the page corresponding to each decision. Mia, Kaylee, Skylee, Harper, Everly, Layla, Ava, your mom, and you all have a secret, and there’s a list of resources at the end of the book to help children, teens, and their friends who have had similar experiences.

Jill Ammon Vanderwood has moved into new territory in her novel, and it works out wonderfully. The difficulties the girls experience reflect actual situations teens and pre-adolescents face and the position they put their friends in when they wonder whether keeping the secret benefits or hurts their friends. Placing readers in charge of the path the friends choose will help young teens work out the scenarios in a safe environment, and if they don’t like the outcome of their decision, they can go back and choose the other path to view the result. Keeping Secrets: The Path You Choose #4 is a great selection for pre-teens and teens, and it would be comfortable on a home shelf to open caregiver-child communication or on the shelves of a public library as a resource or conversation starter for the age range it targets.