The Secrets Club: Alice in the Spotlight by Chris Higgins
|The Secrets Club: Alice in the Spotlight by Chris Higgins|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: Alice is starting secondary school, but no one else from her old school will be there. She soon finds a new group of friends, but she worries that they might find her a bit boring. Worst of all, she has a huge secret that she doesn't feel able to share with them.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 208||Date: June 2012|
|External links: Author's website|
This is a cheerful, feel-good story which nonetheless manages to capture exactly that feeling of anxiety and self-doubt that people experience when going into a new situation. Moving to secondary school in particular is a huge change (which Alice's school does not seem to have managed as efficiently as many real-life schools do these days) and it's a time when even the most confident of children must wonder, in the depths of their hearts, if they will find new friends. Alice in particular is so used to being in the shadow of her loud, cheerful, pretty sister that she spends half the book fretting about whether the other three members of the Gang of Four really like her or not. After all, half the class seemed to fall asleep when she gave a talk about the environment, and even Lissa, Tash and Dani admit she did go on a bit.
This book has been chosen by Bookbuzz as one of the seventeen books to be offered to pupils in Year Seven in 2012, and it is easy to see why. It is well-written, consistently upbeat (even when Alice gets really stressed, there is always a silver lining not too far away) and the school setting is utterly authentic. The author is a former teacher, and it shows not only in the realistic dialogue and plausible situations, but in the fact that for once the teachers aren't all raving bullies or clueless nitwits. It provides a positive view of the first weeks of secondary school, where not getting on the team can seem world-shattering, but where there's always something else to do well at, or another person who needs your help and encouragement. Alice is a good friend, swallowing her own doubts and disappointments as she cheers for her friends, although she isn't mature enough at first to understand that they are prepared to be just as supportive of her.
Early on in their friendship the members of the Gang of Four (as a teacher dubs them) all promise not to have any secrets from each other. But it is soon clear that Alice is not the only one hiding things about herself and her family. Lissa's snobby mum keeps nagging her (and there's a wonderfully embarrassing scene on the first morning when she and Alice's dad clash at the school gates), and no one ever gets to see Tash's mum. This story is wound up in a very satisfactory way by the end of the book, but it is clear there are further secrets and mysteries to be revealed as the series continues.
Some parts of the ending of this charming book won't be a total surprise to the attentive reader, but there is one big stunner in the final pages which is wonderful, almost tear-jerking in its rightness and exuberance. In fact, this book should be prescribed for all girls about to leave the safety of primary school, for reassurance, for information, and most of all—for fun!
Another likeable main character with whom it's really easy to identify can be found in How Kirsty Jenkins Stole the Elephant by Elen Caldecott.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Secrets Club: Alice in the Spotlight by Chris Higgins at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Secrets Club: Alice in the Spotlight by Chris Higgins at Amazon.com.
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