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Stolen Secrets Hardcover – September 19, 2017
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A...contemporary story with a Holocaust secret at its core....a jam-packed narrative with a full complement of tropes and topical elements: new girl; friend issues; alcoholism; family secrets, neo-Nazis; predatory elder care; armed robbery—and a romance. The grandmother's mysterious past (is she Anne Frank? A Nazi?) intrigues...' - Kirkus Reviews
This is a well-written book that sympathetically examines the roles of Holocaust survivors on both sides of the war as well as guilt and forgiveness. The main and supporting characters are funny and engaging....a good addition to those who want to read more books with a Holocaust theme.' – School Library Connection
The author captures the desperate uncertainty of life with an alcoholic and having to parent a parent. An engaging coming-of-age novel recommended for libraries looking to highlight issues of alcoholism, Alzheimer's, and family estrangement.' -School Library Journal
(A) solid mystery with family drama and teen angst...easy to read and would be a good companion read for students reading Anne Frank's diary. (O)nce (teens) pick it up they will not be disappointed.' - VOYA
About the Author
L.B. Schulman is the author of League of Strays, published by Abrams/Amulet in 2012. She lives in San Rafael, California. lbschulman.com.
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Liv has a unique voice. She's wry; for example, she describes the experience of drinking California coffee "like sleeping under an overpass, covered with a blanket of fog." (Hey, wait a minute...I kind of like California coffee.) Liv also undergoes change when she challenges her own preconceived ideas and moral choices. Most of all, she learns the power of stolen secrets to engender harm across generations.
I received an advance reading copy from the author.
What first drew me in to this book was Livvy’s first encounter with San Francisco after she was suddenly uprooted from her home and moved across the country. The familiar details of the city brought richness and charm into the story as the mystery of her family secrets began to unfold. I also really loved Livvy’s relationship with the witty Franklin D., which budded in such a sweet and natural-feeling way. And, of course, the plot, driven by the intrigue around Livvy’s connection to Anne Frank, kept me eager to read on and surprised me when I least expected it.
Woven into Livvy’s personal story are more profound moments of reflection on difficult issues. Alzheimers and alcoholism are two of the more serious topics broached, as well as of course the Holocaust. These topics evoke the complexities of love, guilt, helplessness, and forgiveness, and in turn, Livvy’s coming to terms with these emotions complements her growth as a character.
I can’t say there aren’t moments where the voice is a little awkward or the book seems to ask the reader to make a few unlikely leaps, yet overall I am left feeling really impressed by how this book strikes a rare and wonderful balance of being fast-paced, well-rounded and profound. Bravo, truly!
An ARC of this title was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Livvy's mother Gretchen hadn't seen her mother since she was in college. She hates her mother and wouldn't be taking care of her now except that she wants an inheritance from her mother. Gretchen is an alcoholic who has been sober for five years but the stress of caring for her mother Adelle has caused her to begin drinking again. Livvy wants to get to know her grandmother but Alzheimer's makes it difficult.
Livvy makes a new friend at school named Franklin D. He is the one who is persistent about making her his friend since she is still hoping that she'll be able to resume her life in Vermont in a short time. Franklin D. is an interesting character who is Jewish, has a great relationship with his parents, is bright, and has no filter between things going through his brain and then out his mouth. Livvy needs that kind of person in her life.
The story gains more complications when some of the things Adelle says lead Livvy and Franklin D. to believe that she was in Bergen-Belsen and might have known Anne Frank. The Anne Frank connection is also of interest to Vickie who is Adelle's other caretaker and who has primary responsibility for her while Gretchen is back in Vermont for another try at rehab.
This was an interesting and engaging story about how secrets can be hard on relationships. I disliked Gretchen because her alcoholism has made Livvy an adult before she should have had to become one. I liked that Franklin D. helped her become more comfortable with herself and with her own quirks.
However, I thought the "bad guys" in this book were way too obvious; Livvy was characterized as a detailed, observant person with a photo memory and her friend Franklin D. was also portrayed as above average intelligence and both together at least would have seen this. Also, what mom would leave her teen, underage, not-even-driving daughter alone to care for a grandma she hardly knew and was in failing health? The police incident in which the officer drove the teen home and didn't make sure a responsible adult was present so late at night, was unbelievable and seemed a plot convenience.
Overall, this book was enjoyable and would make a great book for a middle grade audience and possibly for use in the classroom to tie fiction to real historical events.