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Literature / Keeping You a Secret

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Keeping You a Secret is a novel by Julie Anne Peters in which the heroine, Holland Jaeger, discovers that she's a lesbian thanks to her out-and-proud Closet Key, Cecelia "Cece" Goddard.

The novel deals primarily with coming out, homophobia and average high school life.

Keeping You a Secret includes examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Holland's mother is emotionally abusive. And when Holland is outed, she becomes physically abusive.
  • Better as Friends: Holland and Seth were friends since childhood, and in high school they started a sexual relationship, both because Seth wanted to and because it was expected. Holland, in the process of realizing she's a lesbian, recognizes that she only liked Seth as a friend and sex ruined their friendship. She tries to tell Seth this, but he doesn't understand and is furious.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Kristen. You're led to believe that Holland and her are Vitriolic Best Buds at worse with their banter, but the moment Holland is outed, Kristen drops all friendliness and seemingly takes pleasure in calling her childhood friend homophobic slurs.
  • Brand X: The public universities Holland's mother doesn't want her to attend are called "Western State" and "Metro Urban".
  • Butch Lesbian: Holland intends to wear a tux to go to the prom with Cece. She doesn't want the frilly dress her mother picked out. (Cece winds up wearing the dress.) Holland is also athletic; while playing hockey, she meets another woman she recognizes as a fellow butch lesbian.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: What Holland and Seth's relationship seemed to be, until Holland realized that they were Better as Friends.
  • Childhood Friends: Seth and Holland; Holland, Leah, and Kristen. The friendship of the three girls is severely tested over the course of this novel.
  • Chocolate of Romance: Cece keeps giving Holland Hershey's Kisses, doing things like hiding them in Holland's locker.
  • Closet Key: Cece to Holland.
  • Coming-Out Story: The entire novel is Holland's story.
  • Education Mama: Holland's mother, very much; she insists that Holland take a heavy load of classes and apply to all the best universities, won't hear of any other future major but pre-law. Even though Holland is student body president, nothing she does is good enough for her mother.
  • First Love: Cece had her heart broken when her first love left her for someone else, which has bad effects on her relationship with Holland.
  • Friend to All Children: Holland loves kids, and has an after-school job at a daycare where she's universally adored by the children attending.
  • Gaydar: Cece says that her gaydar is infallible, and she knew about Holland the instant she saw her, although Holland herself didn't at that point.
  • Gayngst: Not as much as you'd think, but it's there. For example, once she came out to herself, Holland has an genuine panic attack over that she might not be able to have children and be a Mom.
  • Goth: Holland's stepsister Faith is a Goth, and falls into the "Gloomy Goth" category, being generally quiet, lethargic, and low-key.
  • Have I Mentioned I Am Gay?: Cece, so much. Usually in the form of t-shirts.
  • Heteronormative Crusader: Some of the other students at school, who assault Cece, slash her tires, and write cruel graffiti on her locker. Holland's mother definitely counts, having physically attacked her own daughter, kicked her out, and then blackmailing her into breaking up with Cece.
  • High-School Sweethearts: Holland and Seth, until Holland dumps him... and then Holland and Cece, preparing to go to the prom together at the end of the book.
  • History Repeats: Holland's mother was kicked out of her home for doing something that was considered wrong by her parents, and refused to reconcile with them after they tried contacting her in later years. Holland was kicked out of her home by her mother for doing something that her mother considered wrong, and cuts off all contact with her mother after her mother tries to bring her back under her control.
  • Imaginary Love Triangle: One of the things that keeps Holland from approaching Cece at first is that she thinks Cece is dating Brandi. Actually, Brandi is pursuing Cece who isn't interested.
  • Let's Just Be Friends: Holland says this to Seth when breaking up with him and he reacts badly; this is the line that prompts him to furiously fling the ring that she handed back to him.
  • Love at First Sight: As soon as Holland lays eyes on New Transfer Student Cece, her stomach starts doing flipflops, although she manages to keep herself from thinking about why for quite a while.
  • Love-Obstructing Parents: Holland's mother tries to get her to break up with Cece, wanting her daughter to be "normal" and blaming Cece for corrupting her. She uses emotional blackmail, including pointing out that Holland can only see her beloved baby sister if her mother lets her, but it doesn't work; Holland cuts off contact with her mother instead.
  • My Greatest Failure/I Coulda Been a Contender!: Holland's mother is obsessed with controlling her children, since she became pregnant with Holland at age 15 and now wants her daughter to become the lawyer she never had the chance to become, and not "throw away her life" as she keeps saying.
  • My Beloved Smother: Holland's mother is extremely controlling, spying on her constantly, searching her room, and judging everything she does. She's fiercely ambitious and drives Holland to get into top pre-law programs, though nothing Holland does is ever enough. There's a Freudian Excuse, see My Greatest Failure. This harassment has the opposite effect: by the end of the story, Holland has cut off contact with her mother, is about to attend a local public college, and is thinking of studying art.
  • New Transfer Student: Cece transferred to Holland's school. The reason she did so is a major plot point.
  • Nice Girl: Leah, who is sweet and open-minded, in stark contrast to Kristen. Even when she feels Holland is neglecting their friendship and grows sick of her lying, she never crosses the lines Kristen does and actively seeks to reconcile with Holland.
  • Parental Abandonment: Holland's mother kicks her out after discovering she's gay.
  • Parents as People: Cece's parents support her being openly gay and clearly love her, but her mother Kate confesses that she wishes Cece were quieter about it, as she feels Cece is making herself a target for harassment.
  • Perky Goth: Averted. Holland's stepsister Faith is a Goth and anything but perky.
  • Psycho Ex-Boyfriend: Seth, somewhat, participating in nasty rumor-mongering and outing Holland to her mother.
  • Queer Romance
  • Secret Relationship: Cece doesn't want Holland to come out or tell anyone about their relationship. She says it's because she doesn't want Holland to suffer harassment. Actually, it's because her First Love left her for someone else after coming out and blossoming socially. She's irrationally afraid that this will repeat itself with Holland. The effects of attempting (unsuccessfully) to keep the secret were probably worse than what would have happened if they'd been open from the start.
  • Treehouse of Fun: Holland, Kristen, and Leah had a clubhouse in a tree as young children. After the events of this novel destroy Holland's friendship with Kristen and nearly with Leah, Leah reconnects with Holland by inviting her to meet in the clubhouse and reminisce about old times.