Tell Me a Secret by Holly Cupala + Quick Q and A with Holly!

Summary/Cover Image from Publisher's Website:

It's tough living in the shadow of a dead girl. . . .
In the five years since her bad-girl sister Xanda's death, Miranda Mathison has wondered about the secret her sister took to the grave, and what really happened the night she died. Now, just as Miranda is on the cusp of her dreams—a best friend to unlock her sister's world, a ticket to art school, and a boyfriend to fly her away from it all—Miranda has a secret all her own.
When two lines on a pregnancy test confirm her worst fears, Miranda is stripped of her former life. She must make a choice with tremendous consequences and finally face her sister's demons and her own.
In this powerful debut novel, stunning new talent Holly Cupala illuminates the dark struggle of a girl who must let go of her past to find a way into her own future.

Tell Me a Secret
is one of those books that takes a mundane, overdone subject (teen pregnancy) and puts a new spin on it. A spin that made Tell Me a Secret not only a page-turner in every right way but a novel that felt so close to reality that it was, at times, hard to read, though at the same time so compelling and well-done that you couldn't help but push yourself through every part.

Miranda was a character who haf made quite a decent amount of bad decisions in the past year varying from loosing friends and replacing them with awful people, to having an intimate relationship with her boyfriend for all the wrong reasons, to landing herself in the situation she was in because of it, leaving her to be someone you definitely did not want to emulate. And while I wanted to shake her on the shoulders for being such a fool at times, I also wanted nothing but the best for her, to give her a huge hug and tell her it was all going to get better and that she was so strong in the decisions revolving her pregnancy. Adding to this, it was interesting to see how her relationship with her bad-girl sister, as well as that sister's death, tied into the plot, since while their relationship was complicated, it was also something sweet because of the way they would always stand up for each other no matter how far apart they grew. Also, I have to say Miranda and Xandar's parents were some of the  most selfish I've seen in YA, and I was especially ashamed of the mother's way of dealing with things, though I did enjoy seeing the turn-around both did at the end.

The plot of Tell Me a Secret was fast-paced and made this one story that can easily be read in one long sitting because of the addicting nature it had. It was always interesting to see all the secrets that came out and the different relationships/friendships Miranda had with people and how deeply they affected her. I really liked the add-on of the pregnancy board Miranda went on, because it added an interesting side to the story, involving one character that this story would be incomplete without. Also, while Holly's transitions scenes between past and current were always a little shaky, her writing, as well as her world-building, were still well-done for a debut, and something I'm looking forward to seeing more of in future novels.

And the ending had to be one of my favorite parts, since not only had Miranda grown greatly from being a follower to a leader, but Cupala also didn't sugar coat everything, giving Miranda the realistic yet somewhat happy ending that is meant for these type of novels.

In all, while Tell Me a Secret had it's faults, this is one novel I can't help but suggest you pick up because it truly gives you a unique look into a teenage girl's life and how one death can make everything go up in flames.

Grade: B

Tell Me a Secret is now out!

To read a two-chapter preview head on over here and to read some blurbs head on over here.  

Source: Publisher. Thanks HarperTeen!


Quick Q & A with Holly....

Tell Me a Secret is told from the view of Miranda, so can you tell us a little bit about her? Also, if you could offer her any advice, what would you say?

For five years, Miranda has been holding her family together after the mysterious death of her bad-girl sister. For five years, she’s dreamed of escape, and learning the secrets of Xanda’s world. Now, just as she has the dreamy boyfriend and a dangerous new friend, she has a secret of her own: a positive pregnancy test that will jeopardize everything.

As for advice, I think you can learn a lot by observing other people’s mistakes, but sometimes the only way is to experience them yourself—head knowledge versus heart knowledge. I hope Miranda would use her heart knowledge to help someone else someday.

In Tell Me a Secret, Miranda has a love of art, so what made you choose to have this be a part of the novel? Was it inspired by your own life?

Yes, definitely inspired by my own passions—I love to make art, and I love metaphors, and I love labyrinth literature. So I guess it was inevitable!

In Tell Me a Secret, Miranda’s parents are very dysfunctional (the nicest way of putting it), and ever since finishing Tell Me a Secret, I’ve been wondering what made you decide to put them in that light… so what was it?

I don’t think it was a conscious decision. The whole story came to me in a flash, characters and conflicts and all. But that was just a starting place, a fly-over kind of view. As I wrote, they evolved. For me, it’s necessary to understand where characters is coming from to write them authentically. So I had a very hard time writing the mother until I realized she had a secret, too, and it had a huge impact on the parents’ relationship and ultimately Miranda’s story.

What was your favorite part about writing Tell Me a Secret?

The Halloween party, especially the Q-tips! It’s a really intense scene, sort-of-but-not-really inspired by something that actually happened to me, and the Q-tips suddenly popped out as the comic relief. Plus, I got to use my favorite word, palimpsest, which means something that has been erased and written upon again in layers of history and meaning.

Is there a specific message you hope readers of Tell Me a Secret take from it?

I’ll let you in on a secret: most of the time, writers don’t even know this (often called the theme) until the book is finished, or very nearly finished. As I was writing, I would hit on some new layer and think, this is the theme…then later: no wait, this is the theme! I didn’t realize until reaching the end that the central messages are, you can’t find yourself in other people, and the past does not have to define the future. But then what I hope the most is that readers will take away what is most important to them.

If Tell Me a Secret had a theme song what would it be?

There’s this scene where Miranda is in the hospital and she sings her sister’s favorite song: “Presumed Lost,” by Splashdown, which also happens to be one of my favorite bands. The lyrics are very telling:

"If they try to clip your wings
Fly away, far away
I know why the caged bird sings
I'll await my next escape to meet with you again”
In fact, a lot of Splashdown lyrics apply to Tell Me a Secret. The trailer features another song, “Ironspy.” The band members are our friends, and I’m really happy to be able to share their music!

How does it feel knowing the book you’ve worked so hard on is now in stores?

Surreal, and still a little bit unbelievable, except that I’ve seen it with my own eyes! I’ve been amazed and incredibly grateful for the warm response from readers.

What were you like when you were Miranda’s age? Were you similar to her in any ways?

Tell Me a Secret - Worldwide TourWhen I was Miranda’s age, I always felt this polarization between my creative side and the logical side, a little bit like Miranda caught between her wild sister and her rigid mother—wanting to be like the one, and fearing being like the other. As a writer, I’ve found that dichotomy to be quite useful—my creative side writes the first draft, and the intellectual side fixes it up into something readable—but it took me a little while to figure out how to get them to work together. Plus I admit, I’m as fascinated by Xanda as Miranda is! Maybe someday I might write another book about her.

Since I always love these type of stories, what was ‘The Call’ like?

Absolutely magical. I was about to get on a plane to a writing conference in L.A. when my agent called—he’d only sent it to a handful of editors two weeks before, so I wasn’t expecting anything. He didn’t even hint! So it came as a total shock that there was multiple interest, and we had a pre-empt offer for two books from my dream editor! So I had this crazy grin on my face the entire weekend at the conference. To top it off, my wonderful husband (and favorite person) sent this humongous bouquet of roses. Magical.

What’s up next for you book wise?

Street Creed (tentative title) is slated for Fall 2011. It’s another YA that takes place in the same neighborhood as Tell Me a Secret (in fact, you might notice a few characters making cameo appearances), about a suburban girl who runs away from home for secret reasons. She falls in with a band of street kids, including the boy she hopes to find. It’s gritty and romantic, and I can’t wait for you to meet them! I really love the characters and hope you will, too!

Thank you so much, Lauren, for inviting me to your Crammed Bookshelf! It’s very exciting to be here.


Thanks so much, Holly! I really enjoyed Tell Me a Secret and I'm really looking forward to reading Street Creed! :)

Be sure to check out the next stop on the tour Wednesday, July 7th at The SCBWI Blog with Alice Pope (http://scbwi.blogspot.com/), and you can find future and past stops on the tour here.


Also, Holly is holding some very awesome contests in celebration of Tell Me A Secret's Blog tour.

TELL ME A SECRET Tour Contest Entry Rules:

• Leave comments at any official tour stop or Holly’s blog (www.hollycupala.com) throughout the tour! Each comment counts as an entry (one comment per post*).
• Tweet about the tour (@hollycupala) and tell us what you think!
• Post about the tour, then leave a comment at my blog with a link.
Each week's prizes will be announced at Holly’s blog the following week - check back to see if you've won and contact us at the contact link at www.hollycupala.com (we will hold prizes for 2 weeks).

* Comment calculation: for instance, during week one you can comment once at every official stop, and once on any of my posts for that week to be entered in that week's prize drawing.

What can you win:

•Signed copies of TMAS each week
•Awesome TMAS t-shirts
•Music that inspired the book (Splashdown! Universal Hall Pass! Symbion Project!)
•TMAS Journals
•Bookmarks, buttons, and handmade magnets (made by me!)
•Lots of other cool stuff, and prizes at individual blogs

(*Open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only)


  1. I want to read this book sooooooo bad! Especially the Halloween scene where there is something about q-tips and the cool word "palimpsest!" :)

  2. I think I have no choice but to read TMAS next! I just can't wait anymore lol :)

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Sorry, my meds are making me loopy.

    I agree with Jessica above that I have no choice but to read TMAS as soon as possible. I have put it on my wish list so hopefully I can get it soon.
    Thanks for the great interview and the opportunity to enter.

    misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

  5. I've seen countless reviews of this book and yet I didn't realize until now that there's a teen pregnancy. Wow, I am slow.

  6. This book sounds so very addictive. Thanks for the review! I definitely have to pick it up now.

  7. I love the honest review and I am really looking forward to reading it

  8. Thanks to all of you for stopping by, and also to Lauren for inviting me to visit the Crammed Bookshelf! I really appreciate all of you so much, more than you know. xo

  9. I really adore the cover of this one and I can't wait to read it!

    It sounds quite amazing really.

  10. Tell Me A Secret sounds so good and its on my wishlist so I hope I will read this one soon.

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  12. It's great to hear that often authors don't even know what the main theme of their book is going to be before they finish writing it. It sounds sort of "dull" to imagine author XY sitting down to her desk and saying, "Now I'm going to write a book about eating disorders/teen pregnancy/etc". Even though I suppose the final result will depend almost entirely on the author's abilities in writing and storytelling, not necessarily on how the story was created.


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