Secret Heart, Danielle Dreger’s debut novel, strums the angsty heartstrings of its leading ladies: Avery and Madison. On first glance, the two girls could not be more different. Avery is openly queer, a badass rocker, an only child, and far from a star student. Madison is a poster child for perfection: stellar grades, student council President, soccer star, and all-around super nice person. Not that Avery isn’t nice 😉 Casual acquaintances for most of their high school lives, their lives intertwine on the inaugural meeting of their school’s Gay-Straight Alliance (Lion Pride).
Senior year can be a crazy time and it’s easy to lose sight of which way points up. The instant chemistry and intense desire surprises both girls. Avery and Madison both face heavy expectations (from bandmates, parents, friends, Lion Pride). They struggle to find a personal balance for their lives after high school and if their burgeoning romance (plus the secrecy that Madison wants) is worth the stress. As I read, I marveled at the elasticity of their hearts. Was the trust worthily bestowed? How much of themselves, of their core being, would they be willing to sacrifice in order to appease others?
Had I never met the most unreal-ly nice person before reading this book, I would have scoffed at a character so kind-hearted, successful, and popular. Madison’s life, however, is far from perfect and she plays her cards close to her chest. My inner cynic was pacified by the complexity embodied by both leads. They challenge stereotypes (Avery’s affinity for Taylor Swift and marathoning Zac Efron films with her best friend, Scott, for example) and some other surprises. By the end of the story, I was more satisfied with the characters’ personal growth than with their romance.
Secret Heart is a fun, angsty roller coaster of love and self-discovery.
“Avery’s Playlist” (condensed)
Dreger curated the perfect playlist for this book. The song selections in themselves reflect the storyline and emotional roller coaster of teenage romance. It makes me want to record a mix tape from vignettes of my own life. For a full set list, turn to pp. 247-248 of Secret Heart.
- Tegan & Sara, Closer
- Le Tigre, I’m So Excited
- Taylor Swift, Welcome to New York
- Feist, Secret Heart
- She & Him, Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want
Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers. Don’t forget to check your local library for availability! A part of the proceeds from every book sold goes to support the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN).
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