From the very moment that I heard of It’s Not Like It’s a Secret until I finished the book, I absolutely wanted to love this – it had such an interesting premise, diverse characters, and a fun plot that really made me hope that this was going to be one of those books that I couldn’t get enough of.
Unfortunately, it kind of fell a little bit flat for me – I had a hard time really liking the main character’s personality very much, and I really found myself disliking the cheater like attitude that she had later in the book. I wished this had been a lot different, because I wanted to love this – it was one of the books that I was looking forward to most for this year.
“I hadn’t realized how much of my life – of myself – I’d been trying to keep hidden in Wisconsin. In Wisconsin, I was constantly trying to escape the fact that I was Asian, and hoping that people either didn’t notice or didn’t care. Now, I feel like it’s springtime and my new friends have just peeled off a hot, heavy jacket. I can be openly Asian. For the first time in my life, I feel like I belong.”
Sana has lived in Wisconsin and had friends that she knows she will miss when she is forced to move in California. She will even have to leave her best friend and crush behind, even though she doesn’t want to. But when she moves to California with her parents, she finds that she can be herself, as she is no longer the only Asian girl in a sea of white kids, so she doesn’t feel out of place. While shopping with her mother, she meets a girl that she instantly develops a crush on, and later finds out that she goes to her new school. While at school, she quickly makes friends, and although she finds that she misses her old friends, she gets over it pretty quickly. She joins up with a group of Asian girls and quickly becomes friends with them, and she even joins cross country track in order to get closer to her crush, Jaime.
“I like her. Like, like her – like her. No doubt. Even more than I liked Trish. She’s smart, she’s beautiful, she’s real, she’s romantic. She thinks pieces of sea glass are like pieces of a lost soul, for crying out loud. I like her so much I can hardly even breathe.”
Sana spends her time trying to sort out her feelings for Jaime, and when she finally realizes that yes, she might be really falling for this girl, she decides that maybe this time it’s worth going for. When the two of them bond over poetry and Jaime spends more and more time with Sana, Sana has to wonder if maybe Jaime could like her back. The more time they spend together, the closer they get, and it comes to Sana’s attention that yes, Jaime really does like her after all. But Sana isn’t exactly ready to tell anyone just yet, and Sana’s guy friend decides to move in.
When Sana hears that Jaime had been spotted with her ex-girlfriend, and some people told her that Jaime had been caught kissing her, Sana is devastated. She doesn’t even wait to see what really happened from Jaime herself. She makes a bad decision involving her guy friend, who has had a crush on her for a while, and she is left with a huge mess – a guy who thinks that she is his girlfriend, and a girl that she is falling in love with. So Sana is left to figure out what she really wants – to listen to what Jaime has to say and try to make it work with her, or to lose the best thing that she’s ever had.
“But me, I’m happy. I know something, for once. I know what I want. I want to kiss Jaime, and I also want to spend days at the beach with her, spend winter vacation and Valentine’s Day with her, read poetry with her, go to prom with her. I want it all. Actually, I guess I’ve kind of wanted all of that since the beginning, but the difference now is that I’m not scared of wanting it anymore. I’m not scared of what it means. I don’t know if Jaime wants the same thing. that’s what scares me now. But if she does want what I want, then oh. Oh, how amazing that would be.”
During all of this, Sana has to deal with the knowledge that her father is hiding a secret from her and her mother that could possibly tear their family apart – a secret that Sana has been suspecting for years, but is pretty much certain about now. She wonders if she should tell her mother what she knows, or just let it go – she doesn’t know what is worse. Also, what would happen if her parents found out that she liked girls? She wants to tell her mother so she can openly be herself and with Jaime, but she isn’t sure how she will react, making it a difficult decision.
There are a lot of things going on in this book, and they are all serious issues for Sana. She is forced to deal with leaving her friends behind, falling for a girl she isn’t sure she can be with, her father’s terrible secret, and the fact that she isn’t out to her parents.
I love the diversity in this book – we seriously need more books like this. A variety of cultures are represented, as well as a main character who isn’t quite sure how to identify herself at the beginning of the book – is she bisexual or does she really just like girls? Eventually toward the end of the book we get to see how she becomes sure of what she wants, and it’s amazing to have been on that part of Sana’s journey with her.
As much as I liked this book, I absolutely couldn’t connect to Sana’s character no matter how hard I tried – I just didn’t like her attitude much and I found myself just not caring for her, especially with what she did at the end of the book that put she and Jaime’s relationship in jeopardy. I hated how she just listened to everyone else instead of talking to Jaime directly. The rest of the characters, including Jaime, were interesting, though.
This book touches on a lot of deep subjects, like I mentioned earlier, and it really goes to quite a few interesting places, such as the secret that her father is keeping. It’s hard to watch this slowly unravel, but sometimes things aren’t exactly what they seem, so learning about what was really going on in Sana’s family was something I wasn’t expecting.
This was a pretty enjoyable read and I flew right through it, but I just had a few issues with the characters and the overall fact that it wasn’t quite as memorable as I had hoped it would be.