Image courtesy of Amazon.com
I Have No Secrets
by Penny Joelson
Jemma is a teenager with cerebral palsy. She lives with her foster family who also foster a young, Autistic boy, Finn and a young girl with anger issues, Olivia. Despite being part of this foster situation, the family is loving and safe.
Jemma has no control over her body at all. She can't feed herself, she can't use the bathroom by herself, she can't even roll over by herself. She has no way to communicate to those around her. She relies totally on her care giver, Sarah, for helping her throughout the day. Sarah treats Jemma like a regular girl, paints her nails, plays her music and talks about boys.
Others talk to Jemma too. They find it easy to talk to someone who can't talk back or tell anyone what they might be up to. When Jemma hears news about a local murder, she is desperate to warn those around her. Being able to communicate has never been more important, or more impossible. But by chance, Jemma is introduced to a doctor who thinks he might be able to help her. Suddenly Jemma's life becomes in danger because of what she's overheard. Can she communicate what is going on before it's too late? Can someone with no control over their body communicate the truth?
I Have No Secrets is a murder mystery that you won't be able to put down. But it's also a discussion about how we treat the disabled within our communities. Without giving too much away, Jemma is the one who cracks open the case, but she can't do that without help from many others. We often see the differently-abled as not as smart, capable or valuable as those of us who are lucky enough to be able to walk and talk without aid. This story examines the biases and stereotypes that many differently-abled people face.
In the vein of Wonder, I Have No Secrets would be a great read for students in middle school through high school. The murder mystery will engage students who like thrillers, and the relationships between the characters will keep them hooked.
I Have No Secrets was not available through any of my regular book purchasing options as it is published in the UK. However, it was available on Amazon for a pretty reasonable price. I enjoyed reading the voice of the British characters and sometimes trying to figure out what they were talking about! If you read it as a book group, you can teach context clues to decipher some of the vernacular! Joelson has obviously done her research and I Have No Secrets is a precise look into the life of a family caring for differently-abled children. I hope you will read it!