The Art of Secrets

Overview

Saba Khan:
In a way, the fire might have been the best thing that ever happened to me. But maybe even writing that is t.o.o. r.e.v.e.a.l.i.n.g.

Steve Davinski:
Well, okay, yes, there has been some whispering the past couple of days here at Highsmith. Something exciting is...

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Overview

Saba Khan:
In a way, the fire might have been the best thing that ever happened to me. But maybe even writing that is t.o.o. r.e.v.e.a.l.i.n.g.

Steve Davinski:
Well, okay, yes, there has been some whispering the past couple of days here at Highsmith. Something exciting is going on, and I understand your curiosity. However, it is totally premature for us to discuss that topic today.

Jean Delacroix:
All right, then? Moving forward. I was the first person to realize that the Spoons’ “garbage art” was something special. The style of the work is unmistakable.

Kendra Spoon:
I’m not sure what to say. I’m more comfortable in a behind-the-scenes, stuffing-envelopes kind of role. I’m not a spokesperson or anything. Maybe you can talk to my brother, Kevin?

Kevin Spoon:
To be honest, it still blows my mind that I am one of the people who got this going. For the rest of my life, no matter what else I do, I can tell myself: How cool that you pulled that off. You changed that family’s life

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
01/27/2014
In his intriguing second book, Klise (Love Drugged) tells the story of a Pakistani family rebuilding their lives after their apartment is destroyed in a fire set by an arsonist. Coming to their aid, students from sophomore Saba Khan’s prestigious Chicago high school plan a community fundraiser to help replace what her family lost. But when one of the items in the auction is reported missing—a collection of drawings supposedly painted by reclusive (real-life) outsider artist Henry Darger, worth half a million dollars—fingers are pointed and rumors circulate about who might have stolen it. Through emails, texts, journal entries, interview transcripts, newspaper clips, and official documents that pull in the perspectives of students, teachers, and others, Klise simultaneously reveals details about what might have transpired while allowing characters’ darker motives—prejudice, envy, greed—to emerge. Astute readers may solve the whodunits early on, but the question of “how far would be willing to go to make dreams come true” propels the book forward to its scandalous conclusion. Ages 12–up. Agent: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (Apr.)
Review quotes

“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire . . . and apparently, valuable art! When the Khan family’s home is mysteriously burned to the ground, the funds from a priceless painting come to their rescue. Through unique journal entries, articles, and interviews, a tangled web of unusual secrets unfolds.” —Teen Vogue

“This art mystery is that rare book that will be passed around by teens as well as teachers in the faculty lounge, discussed and dissected and immediately reread to scour for hidden clues and motivations. The incidents at Highsmith School will stay on readers’ minds long after the last page.” —Booklist, starred review

“Intriguing . . . The hairpin-turn twist ending will have surprised readers leafing back through the earlier parts of the book to search for foreshadowing, and it will provoke much discussion about who’s a good guy here and who’s a baddie.” —Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books

“This darkly ambiguous, provocative novel highlights several themes worthy of discussion, including the destructive power of secrets and the politics of generosity.” —The Horn Book

“Greed, jealousy, and suspicion create a tangled web in this easy-to-read, creative and thought-provoking story set in the Chicago area with multicultural characters. Engrossing!” —Skipping Stones

“This is a book about the secret motivations that drive us all. Klise develops a set of complex characters, both teen and adult, who, because of the stolen artwork, must deal with their own beliefs about fairness, belonging, and truth. This mystery is well crafted and will leave readers guessing as to the identity of the culprit to the end. This is an excellent addition to collections where mysteries are popular and will give readers much to think and talk about.” —VOYA

“Relationships, secrets and lies aplenty for caper-loving fans.” —Kirkus Reviews

From the Publisher
“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire . . . and apparently, valuable art! When the Khan family’s home is mysteriously burned to the ground, the funds from a priceless painting come to their rescue. Through unique journal entries, articles, and interviews, a tangled web of unusual secrets unfolds.” —Teen Vogue

“This art mystery is that rare book that will be passed around by teens as well as teachers in the faculty lounge, discussed and dissected and immediately reread to scour for hidden clues and motivations. The incidents at Highsmith School will stay on readers’ minds long after the last page.” —Booklist, starred review

“Intriguing . . . The hairpin-turn twist ending will have surprised readers leafing back through the earlier parts of the book to search for foreshadowing, and it will provoke much discussion about who’s a good guy here and who’s a baddie.” —Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books

“This darkly ambiguous, provocative novel highlights several themes worthy of discussion, including the destructive power of secrets and the politics of generosity.” —The Horn Book

“Greed, jealousy, and suspicion create a tangled web in this easy-to-read, creative and thought-provoking story set in the Chicago area with multicultural characters. Engrossing!” —Skipping Stones

“This is a book about the secret motivations that drive us all. Klise develops a set of complex characters, both teen and adult, who, because of the stolen artwork, must deal with their own beliefs about fairness, belonging, and truth. This mystery is well crafted and will leave readers guessing as to the identity of the culprit to the end. This is an excellent addition to collections where mysteries are popular and will give readers much to think and talk about.” —VOYA

“Relationships, secrets and lies aplenty for caper-loving fans.” —Kirkus Reviews

Voya Reviews, April 2014 (Vol. 36, No. 1) - Bethany Martin
Saba Khan’s life changes drastically after her family’s apartment is destroyed in a suspicious fire. The American-born daughter of Pakistani immigrants has always been a bit of an outsider at her prep school, but after the fire, the school embraces her family. Saba finds herself living in a luxury high-rise building, with a popular boyfriend and a new friend who is organizing an auction to benefit the Khan family. The auction becomes more than just a small school event after artwork valued at $500,000 is donated by outsider artist Henry Darger. Saba’s life takes another turn, however, when the art is stolen before the auction. The story unfolds through a series of documents and interviews, which weave together multiple characters and storylines, all trying to solve the mystery of the stolen art. Though Saba and her circumstances are the impetus for the storyline, the novel is not really about her. This is a book about the secret motivations that drive us all. Klise develops a set of complex characters, both teen and adult, who, because of the stolen artwork, must deal with their own beliefs about fairness, belonging, and truth. This mystery is well-crafted and will leave readers guessing as to the identity of the culprit to the end. This is an excellent addition to collections where mysteries are popular and will give readers much to think and talk about. Reviewer: Bethany Martin; Ages 12 to 18.
Children's Literature - Sarah Raymond
Saba Khan a sophomore at Highsmith School returns home after a tennis match to find her family's apartment has been destroyed by fire. Everything this poor family ever had and known is completely gone. Luckily for Saba two students at the school Kendra and Kevin Spoon take it upon themselves to help the family by having an auction at their school to help raise money. Kendra and Kevin scour the city looking for items to put in the auction when they come across an old box on the side of the road filled with books and some pieces of art. The school's art teacher realizes that these art pieces may belong to the famous Henry Darger and worth lots of money. Shortly after the realization that these paintings could be worth a lot of money they end up missing from the gym teacher's office where they had been locked up. The story switches between multiple people involved in the situation adding to the mystery and depth of the novel. We see the story and experiences through many different eyes that all read the situation differently based on their perspective and role in the story. No one experiences a single situation the same way and everyone has his or her own motives. The big question is what really happened! Reviewer: Sarah Raymond
School Library Journal
04/01/2014
Gr 6–10—A suspicious fire, possibly a hate crime, destroys Saba Khan and her family's apartment and possessions. The Khans rely on the generosity of their neighbors and donations from Saba's school, a prestigious private school near downtown Chicago. Siblings Kendra and Kevin Spoon, two of the teen's classmates, decide an auction would be a great way to raise money to help the Pakistani American family. Soon the Spoons find a unique piece of artwork for the auction, and the event becomes big news that everyone wants in on. The art goes missing, and anyone involved in the auction is a suspect. This novel is told in variety of formats, including journal entries, email, text messages, newspaper stories, and police reports. Ten different characters share their points of view, leaving readers to work out exactly what happened and who might be guilty. Keeping up with all the different perspectives can be daunting, and some entries don't always contribute to the momentum. For fans of realistic fiction with plot twists, mysteries, and epistolary-type novels.—Natalie Struecker, Rock Island Public Library, IL
Kirkus Reviews
2014-01-29
Relationships, secrets and lies aplenty for caper-loving fans. Here are the facts: Saba Khan's family is left homeless after a suspicious fire guts their small Chicago apartment. Saba's school community rallies around the reserved, observant tennis player and her family, and two fellow students, Kendra and Kevin Spoon, organize a charity auction on their behalf. Among the donations is a 10-page illustrated story by renowned Chicago self-taught artist Henry Darger (trash-picked in Darger's old neighborhood by Kendra and Kevin), which is promptly insured for $550,000 and then goes missing. Who torched the Khans' apartment? Who stole the artwork, and why? How did they do it? The answers unfold with briskly paced care in Klise's (Love Drugged, 2010) second novel, an apparent homage to the style of his sisters Kate and M. Sarah Klise's Regarding the Fountain (1998) and others. Through the interview transcripts, journal entries, text messages and overheard conversations of Saba and her father, as well as fellow students, faculty and administration at Highsmith School, readers get both bird's-eye and close-up views of the case, and careful readers will quickly unmask the culprit. Strong on plotting and art history but weak on believable voices (Saba herself comes through beautifully, but her father, Farooq, and Spanish exchange student Javier are particularly cringe-inducing), Klise doesn't quite pull off the trick his clever, appealing villains do. Enjoyable but inessential. (Mystery. 11-14)
Booklist
“This art mystery is that rare book that will be passed around by teens as well as teachers in the faculty lounge, discussed and dissected and immediately reread to scour for hidden clues and motivations. The incidents at Highsmith School will stay on readers’ minds long after the last page.”
Booklist [HC starred review]
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
“This art mystery is that rare book that will be passed around by teens as well as teachers in the faculty lounge, discussed and dissected and immediately reread to scour for hidden clues and motivations. The incidents at Highsmith School will stay on readers’ minds long after the last page.”
Booklist [HC starred review]
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616201951
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • Publication date: 4/22/2014
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 202,838
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.10 (w) x 5.60 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

James Klise is the author of Love Drugged, which was an ALA Stonewall Honor Book and received glowing reviews. He lives in Chicago, where he works as a high school librarian. His short stories have appeared in many journals, including StoryQuarterly, New Orleans Review, Ascent, and Southern Humanities Review. The Art of Secrets is his second novel.

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