Series: Elemental #4
Release Date: January 28, 2014
Secret is much more about Nick’s personal struggles than it is about the Elemental storyline, but it manages to do just what Kemmerer does best – shed light on issues that affect many teens today in a way that is heart-wrenching and real. I absolutely LOVE this series and this book was no exception!
- It’s all happening too fast! I hadn’t really been super aware of the timeline on these books until this one. Several times in this book, someone comments on how the events in book #1 in the series just happened a few weeks ago!! Huh? First of all, that seems nearly impossible with everything that’s happened since book #1. But, much more importantly, it suddenly pointed out to me that all of these relationships in these books are moving much too fast! I noticed it a bit in book #3 (Hunter and Kate got physical relatively quickly – but I gave it a bit of a pass since she died and Kemmerer kind of had to rush the relationship or it couldn’t have happened at all), but now that I’m realizing that the whole series has happened over the span of several weeks, it’s kind of disturbing me. I’ve really been impressed with the way that Kemmerer has handled YA issues in her books in a way that teens could truly relate to and it makes me kind of sad that she’s showing her teen characters having sex (or at least implying that they are) when they’ve only known each other a few weeks. She could have easily had a bit more time pass during her books without affecting the story (at least stretch the series out over the school year!). Did this ruin the book for me – well, no, but it is my one disappointment about the series.
- Moment of conflict. There was one moment in this book that I felt a bit conflicted about. Nick takes a dominant role in Adam and Nick’s physical relationship (and the implication is that they get a bit rough). Considering Adam’s past abuse, this bothered me a bit and I just felt uneasy about it. I think that the author meant for it to be empowering for both Adam and Nick – showing that Adam felt safe with Nick and that Nick was not weak as he had always imagined himself to be. I see what Kemmerer was probably going for, but I still couldn’t help but feel uneasy about this scene. Otherwise, I loved Adam and Nick together.
- Nick’s struggle with his sexuality. I thought that Nick’s struggle with his sexuality (or at least with revealing it) was portrayed in a very honest and compelling manner. Nick has had an incredibly hard time coming to terms with who he is and he fears how his family will react if they learn the truth. And, really, you can’t blame him – especially when it comes to his brother Gabriel. After all, Gabriel isn’t always the most understanding of guys. He also struggles with the stereotypes of being gay – he’s always felt like the “weaker” brother and he fears that people will see his sexuality as just one more thing that proves he’s weak. Nick can’t get beyond his fears, both about his sexuality and about letting his family down in other ways (like going away to college), and his life becomes unbearable because of it. His conflicted feelings threaten to destroy his relationship with Adam and possibly with his family as well. Nick’s pain is so raw and so real – it’s impossible not to sympathize with him.
- Adam. Adam is a great character because he is comfortable with his sexuality and he doesn’t ever apologize for it. His relationship with Nick is very sweet. When he reveals an abusive past to Nick, it brings them closer together and pulls the reader into his story even further. You can’t help but hurt for Adam and want something better for him.
- Quinn and Tyler. If you had told me that I would be a fan of Quinn or Tyler at the beginning of this book, I would have thought you were crazy. Turns out, I’m a fan of both of them! This book was a bit different because, instead of being told from the perspective of one of the brothers and his love interest, it’s told from the perspective of one of the brothers and his pretend love interest! At first, I wasn’t sure how much I would connect to Quinn since her story didn’t seem like it would be that central to the main story. But, of course, Kemmerer made Quinn’s story compelling too. Quinn struggles with herself in this book, just like Nick does, albeit in a very different way. Quinn struggles with her own self-worth because of years of abuse. She doesn’t feel like she has anything to offer to a boy beyond her sexuality and she doesn’t think that anyone would want her for any other reason. She also struggles with her body image. Once again, I think that Kemmerer handled these issues with an amazing sensitivity and presented a great message about self-worth. Tyler, on the other hand, was always portrayed as a horrible person in past books. In this book, we get to see a bit more about Tyler and why he acts the way he does toward the Merricks. His character is complicated and I have to admit that it took a very long time for him to win me over. But, the journey there was much better than I was expecting!
- The Merrick family. Once again, family wins the day in this book. I’ve grown to love the Merrick family more and more throughout these books and this book is no exception. The family members’ reactions to Nick’s announcement that he’s gay are varied, but they all work well for the characters we have come to know and love. While they might hit speed bumps along the way, there is no doubt that this family will always be there for each other in the end.
- War with the Guides. While the Elemental storyline wasn’t as front and center in this book, the main plot is advanced and it looks like a war with the Guides is coming, whether the Merricks like it or not!