A Review By: Amelia
Young adult novels can be a treasure trove of clichés and exhausted tropes but they can also be a place where authors have free rein to explore more adult or taboo topics in contexts that show imagination and diversity. It can create some very interesting books. No One Needs To Know is one of those books and it tackles, perhaps, one of the biggest taboos a teenager can face: figuring out your sexuality.
The author of No One Needs To Know is Amanda Grace (the pen name for Mandy Hubbard). She’s the author of three other young adult novels, and a literary agent at D4EO Literary who specializes in middle grade/young adult fiction.
I’d like to start this overview by saying that the blurb on the book of the book and what the book is actually are very different. The back of the book implies there’s higher stakes than there really are with a cheating love triangle and the possibility of the twins growing to hate each other over Zoey but that’s far from what this book is! Let me tell you actually what it is.
Olivia’s twin brother, Liam, has been her best friend her whole life, but when their parents begin to spend months away from home and Liam begins to date, Olivia is left feeling alone. Not to mention adequate as she struggles to maintain a passable GPA in her girl’s private school and her coveted spot on the gymnastics team. Things seem to get worse for her as she’s partnered in class with Zoey, her best friend’s hated rival, and then meets Liam’s latest fling: also Zoey.
Zoey, a call-it-like-she-sees-it kind of girl, sees right through Olivia. What starts as verbal sparring between the two changes into something different, however, as they share their deepest insecurities and learn they have a lot in common. Olivia falls for Zoey, believing her brother could never get serious with her. But when Liam confesses that he’s in love with Zoey and doesn’t want her to be only a passing fling, Olivia is left feeling torn.
Like I mentioned above, young adult literature can end up being full of tired tropes and, although No One Needs To Know is able to do a lot of things really well, Grace’s three main characters Liam, Olivia, and Zoey, are underdeveloped. You do get some nice snippets of their personalities throughout the piece but they all fall under some very tired clichés: Olivia is an uptight, spoiled rich girl, Liam her chill twin brother that never has to work hard at being perfect, and Zoey, the rough girl from a troubled family in the bad part of town but goes to the private school on a scholarship because she’s really smart. Overall, I’d say Zoey is the most clichéd with her wrong side of tracks upbringing, and the many rumors surrounding her (she’s a slut for reasons that later turn out to be a big misunderstanding) and Liam–poor Liam! You hardly get a damn thing about him other that he’s the favourite twin and a chill dude with girls and beer on his mind! Surprisingly, Olivia turned out to be my favourite character. Even though I’m sick to death of the rich girl trope I always get a kick out of seeing them turn away from what they’ve been taught to just be themselves. Olivia more or less turns her whole life on its head from dropping out of activities her parents pressure in, to coming to terms with her sexuality. She had the most development throughout the story and it really shows compared to the other two main characters.
The most impressive thing about this novel is the grace in which the attraction between the girls is handled. It’s a taboo topic that many people struggle with, and Zoey and Olivia are no different in that regard. However, where some writers might have trouble convaying the complexities of non-hetro, teenage sexuality, Grace approaches it in a subtle and very organic way without a ridiculous amount of crazy or hurtful drama.
My final thoughts on No One Needs To Know are that it’s a great read. It’s compelling enough to read all in one seating with beautifully complex characters and a really touching, realistic love story that develops between the main characters. It’s young adult fiction at its best and should not be overlooked just because it was written for a younger audience!