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The Secret of Me

The Secret of Me

by Meg Kearney
A vivid, heartfelt tale of a teenager's poetic quest to discover her place within her adoptive family and within the wider world.

Being adopted is a fact of life in the McLane household: fourteen-year-old Lizzie, as well as her older brother and sister were adopted as infants. But dry facts rarely encompass feelings, and what it feels like to be


A vivid, heartfelt tale of a teenager's poetic quest to discover her place within her adoptive family and within the wider world.

Being adopted is a fact of life in the McLane household: fourteen-year-old Lizzie, as well as her older brother and sister were adopted as infants. But dry facts rarely encompass feelings, and what it feels like to be adopted is something Lizzie never dares openly discuss with her loving parents—let alone with outsiders. More and more Lizzie yearns to confide in others, especially her boyfriend, Peter. But something stops her. Will Peter think she is "less" because her birthmother gave her away? Would telling be disloyal to her adoptive parents?

Told entirely through the poems Lizzie writes for herself, this intimate, moving story gives voice to the thoughts Lizzie cannot utter aloud. Lizzie transforms relationships and events in her daily life—family dinners, the school dance, hanging out with friends—into blues poems, list poems, sonnets, sestinas, and free verse that delve into her secret wishes and her fears. Often Lizzie feels like two people: the person everyone knows, and the one known to precious few. But when a tragic accident occurs, Lizzie finds the courage to say who she truly is and to set off on a new path of self-discovery and truth.

In an Afterword the author discusses her own experience as an adopted child and how writing can help make sense of one's life. Also included are a Guide to Poetic Forms and an Appendix of Poems (poems referred to in the novel, by Lucille Clifton, Hayden Carruth, Anne Sexton, Donald Hall, and others).

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
This novel is a collection of poems detailing the life of a fourteen-year-old girl named Lizzie who desperately wants to find out the story of her adoption. Through her relationships with her friends, potential boyfriend, parents, and two older siblings who are also adopted, the reader learns about the insecurities, questions, and fears that fill Lizzie's mind on a daily basis. By attending school dances, sleepovers, playing basketball for her high school, and sharing her poetry with her parents, Lizzie slowly grows more self-confident and begins to share with those closest to her the secret that she is adopted. In reading each poem, the reader engages in all of Lizzie's emotions, including the process of sharing her secret. Kearney writes in a way that expresses Lizzie's vulnerability and honesty, which further allows the reader to enter her world and identify with her experiences. Kearney writes in part from her own experiences as an adopted child with two older adopted siblings, evoking a level of authenticity that makes it believable. Her style of writing and use of poetry connect strongly with the theme of self-analysis and self-growth displayed throughout the novel. 2005, Persea Books, Ages 13 to 18.
—Heather McKenzie
Lizzie McLane is a 14-year-old in a family created by adoptions: her older sister and brother are also adopted. Yet, no one in the family is able to talk about birth parents. Lizzie's brother tells her it would seem disloyal to their parents, who love them dearly. And yet, Lizzie just wants to know more about who she is, what her birth mother looks like, what ethnic group she is connected to—those sorts of things. Even a classroom assignment to create a family tree makes Lizzie sad. She turns to her book of poetry, writing of her confusion—why does she crave knowledge about her biological parents when her siblings don't seem to need to know? Is she unhappy, dissatisfied with her parents? She doesn't want to hurt their feelings. She knows they consider their children their own. Why is she ashamed to tell people she is adopted, "the secret of me," as the title says? The novel consists of a series of poems in Lizzie's voice. And it is with her poetry that she finally connects lovingly with her parents, convincing them of her need to know about her birth mother. As is true of all novels told in poetry format, strong feelings are conveyed in few words, carefully chosen for the strongest emotional impact. Kearney includes a long essay about the poetry she uses to tell Lizzie's story, an essay about her own experience being adopted, poetry mentioned by Lizzie, and a bibliography of books of poetry and about adoption. A special book filled with insight into the complexities of adoption. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2005, Persea, dist. by W.W. Norton, 136p. bibliog., Ages 12 to 18.
—Claire Rosser
On rare occasions one reads a book that is just plain touching, pulling the reader in and allowing one to feel what the character feels. Here is such a book. In poetic form, it is written in the voice of fourteen-year-old Lizzie, who journals her feelings about being adopted. Lizzie's siblings are also adopted, and instead of "when you were born" tales, McLane family members recount their "phone call" stories. Outside the family, however, the fact that the children are adopted is never mentioned. Lizzie gets into trouble with her older siblings when she voices questions about her birthmother. She is seen as being disloyal. Among Lizzie's tight group of friends are two other girls who are adopted. They talk about their shared secret. Do they tell their other friends? Did the boyfriend break up with one of them because he was told that she was adopted? Should they search for their birth parents? Lizzie presents all these feelings and decisions. The afterword tells about the author's struggle with the knowledge of her adoption as she grew up. A section tells about the types of poetics that Lizzie uses. There are recommendations for poetry collections and books on poetry and several selections of poems by other poets that are mentioned by Lizzie as her favorites. This tenderly written book is definitely for the adopted teen but can be enjoyed by all others. It can be used within classroom poetry units with great success. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2005, Persea Books, 136p., Ages 11 to 15.
—Susan Allen
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-This novel in verse follows 14-year-old Lizzie through a year in which, despite her loving family, a circle of good friends, and a potential first boyfriend, she is plagued with a personal secret. She desperately wants to find out the story behind her adoption and her own identity, and while her parents and brother and sister (also adopted) are sympathetic, they discourage her from pursuing it. The lack of information leads her to worry obsessively and she frequently finds herself in her "broken place" where she wonders if being adopted makes her less of a person and if she can ever share her secret with others. The poems are readable and heartfelt, based in part on the author's life. Kearney creates a believable voice for her protagonist, and this book will be welcomed by adults working with young adoptees. Though lacking the broader appeal of Kate Banks's Dillon Dillon (Farrar, 2002) and Hilary McKay's Saffy's Angel (S & S, 2002), it will find a receptive audience among teens who enjoy introspective coming-of-age dramas and thoughtful family stories. Kearney includes a good deal of supplemental material, including some thoughts on how families can discuss adoption among themselves, a guide to the poetic forms she has used (including pantoums, sestinas, and villanelles), six of "Lizzie's favorite poems," and a list of recommended books on poetry and adoption.-Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A sincere, at times poignant, novel-in-verse reads like a memoir and tells the story of a teenager who wishes to explore her identity as an adopted child. Lizzie (age 14) expresses her deepest and most personal thoughts about being adopted with her three best friends. But she longs to share her secret identity with her new boyfriend and to probe openly her biological background, even though her siblings (also adopted) view doing so as an act of disloyalty to their devoted adoptive parents. Kearney exploits poetry and its variety of forms uniquely to access and express Lizzie's innermost hopes and desires and how they affect the choices she makes. A real balance of personal exploration as an adoptee and new teenage emotions creates a powerful blend in a warm character ready to connect and sustain that bond to readers. Not only will adolescents feel expertly sensitized to issues of adoption, they will get a good dose of real poetry with unique and inspiring language so often sacrificed for story in this genre. Substantive backmatter (afterword, guide to the poetics, reprints of poems Lizzie loves, recommended links and bibliography) makes this a first-rate offering. (Fiction. 12+)

Product Details

W W Norton & Co Inc
Publication date:
Karen and Michael Braziller Bks.
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

Meet the Author

Meg Kearney is the author of An Unkindness of Ravens, a book of poems for adults. She teaches poetry at the New School University and is the Associate Director of the National Book Foundation, headquartered in New York City, where she lives.

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