Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Secret History of Us - Review

The Secret History of Us

By: Jessi Kirby

Expected Publication: August 1st 2017 by HarperTeen

288 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Source: Publisher via Edelweiss (Thank you!!)

( Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository )

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Goodreads description--Gorgeously written and emotionally charged, The Secret History of Us explores the difficult journey of a teenage girl who must piece her life together after losing her memory in a near-fatal accident.

When Olivia awakes in a hospital bed following a car accident that almost took her life, she can’t remember the details about how she got there. She figures the fog is just a symptom of being in a week-long coma, but as time goes on, she realizes she’s lost more than just the last several days of her life—she’s lost her memory of the last four years. Gone is any recollection of starting or graduating high school; the prom; or her steady boyfriend Matt. Trying to figure out who she is feels impossible when everyone keeps telling her who she was.

As Liv tries to block out what her family and friends say about who she used to be, the one person she hasn’t heard enough from is Walker, the guy who saved her the night her car was knocked off that bridge into the bay below. Walker is the hardened boy who’s been keeping his distance—and the only person Olivia inexplicably feels herself with. With her feelings growing for Walker, tensions rising with Matt, and secrets she can’t help but feel are being kept from her, Olivia must find her place in a life she doesn’t remember living.

I wanted to read The Secret History of Us because amnesia stories are so interesting. When I featured The Secret History of Us on my Sunday Post & Stacking the Shelves post the week I received it, Jo commented that she has "always been intrigued by the link between memory and personality, how who you are can be based on what you've experienced - what you remember experiencing - and how you may change if you forget quite a long period of your life." And her comment hit the nail on the head for me. This is exactly why I wanted to read The Secret History of Us. Now I will say that the description of The Secret History of Us listed above is a bit misleading. Yes, Walker has kept his distance, and while Olivia has some inexplicable feelings surrounding Walker--mostly she feels a desire to thank him for saving her life--things aren't EXACTLY how the description makes you think they are. It's hard to explain how misleading without getting into spoilers.

The best single quote to give you a good idea of how The Secret History of Us starts out is:

-Today I learned that I'm eighteen years old, but the last birthday I can remember celebrating is my fourteenth. I graduated high school a month ago, but I've never been. I've stopped hanging out with one of my best friends in the whole world and I have no idea why. And I have a boyfriend--Matt--who I'm headed over heels in love with, but who I only just met today. He's a victim of the accident in more ways than one. A stranger. Or maybe I'm the stranger.

Olivia and Matt were involved in a car accident when a truck runs them off a bridge. Olivia is trapped in the car and Matt can't get her out. Thankfully, a boat was coming in about the same time as the accident happened and Walker was able to dive down and cut the seat belt trapping Olivia in the car. Once into the boat, Walker had to do CPR on Olivia which saved her life. However, being in a coma for a week and broken ribs from the CPR aren't her only injuries. Her parents are beyond relieved to learn that Olivia remembers who they are. And she remembers her best friend, Paige, but after Olivia has no memory of her boyfriend Matt, her parents start quizzing her to learn that she has no memory of the last 4 years of her life. Matt is devastated that the girl he's in love with has no memory of him or their relationship. Also as was mentioned in the quote above, Olivia has no memory of how she's no longer friends with Jules who was once one of her closest friends.

Understandably, Olivia's parents are anxious for her to get her memory back. But Matt is probably the most anxious of all. Not only does he want to get his girlfriend back, but he is struggling with some major guilt. He couldn't get her out of the car. He wasn't the one who performed CPR on her. He freaked out a bit when he heard her ribs breaking while Walker was performing CPR, and he's the reason why they were out driving the night of the accident. Olivia is slow to let Matt back in because what an awkward position to be in. You're told that you're in love with a stranger. Yet she doesn't know Matt at all. And she doesn't feel anything for him. But with Paige and her parents telling her what a great relationship they had and how much they loved each other Olivia feels like she owes it to Matt to try.

Another thing that bugs Olivia to no end when she wakes up is that she's no longer friends with Jules. She doesn't know why. And no one can really tell her. Even when she gets the courage to ask Paige, Paige doesn't really have much of an answer. I liked how Jessi Kirby worked this aspect. Without giving too much away, relationships don't always have to have a big explosion to run their course. There doesn't always have to be a huge reason why some people are only in our lives for a season.

But Olivia just can't reconcile the person she remembers being (at fourteen years old) with the changes that everyone around her is telling her that she's made. She's a vegetarian. She's no longer friends with Jules. She's in love with Matt. She no longer uses her once loved camera to pursue photography. And she can't reconcile the emotions she feels with the information she's given. She feels no connection to Matt. She misses Jules. She misses photography. She feels drawn to an old boat that she used to visit. And she feels like she owes much to the boy who saved her life.

There was so much depth to The Secret History of Us that is slowly worked out through the process of the book. Olivia learns more about herself--who she really is versus who she showed those around her. She learns that she was keeping some secrets, that she was in the process of changing again. And that she has more changing to do. She learns to trust her instincts. And she learns that just because love was present before, doesn't it mean it will last. And that where love has died, it can be rekindled and grow again.

Favorite quotes:

-pay attention to my attention.

...it's the worst feeling in the world to think that everyone who knows you has what they think is a good enough reason to lie to you.

-I try to remember the things that are fleeting, but carry something lasting within them.

My favorite quote is a bit lengthy and contains a little too much spoilers to share here.

I feel like my review of The Secret History of Us has been all over the place and has not done this book justice at all. I thoroughly enjoyed every word of it. I was hooked from the beginning--interested to see where, when, and if Olivia would get her memory back, why was she no longer friends with Jules, why was Walker so standoffish, would she remember or fall back in love with Matt, what happened in the accident that her parents didn't want her to know? All of these things. The Secret History of Us is the first book that's kept me awake at night because I couldn't put it down. I literally stayed awake past midnight to finish this book, and as a mother of a child under the age of two, staying awake when I can sleep is not something I do often. All of this means that The Secret History of Us gets 4 Stars from me. Have you read The Secret History of Us? What did you think? Let me know!


  1. I liked this one a lot! And I agree- Jo's comment sums it up pretty well. I thought Kirby captured Olivia's dilemma so well, and it didn't veer into out there stuff or some crazy mystery- it was just heartfelt and very readable. I flew through it too, and it's probably one of my favorites of the year. I think you reviewed it very well.

  2. Aw thanks Greg! I think it'll be one that I remember for my favorites posts at the end of the year this year too! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!