‘I Have No Secrets’ Gives New Meaning to Being Silenced


Natalie Green

Kate Kueter ’21 poses with the book I Have No Secrets by Penny Joelson.

Kate Kueter, Video Editor

“Here’s a secret for you, and I know you won’t tell anyone,” the killer whispers as Jemma stares into their eyes. 

Jemma is a sixteen-year-old girl with a great friend named Sarah. Jemma and Sarah have a special relationship: Sarah is Jemma’s aid. Jemma is a quadriplegic due to cerebral palsy; she can not move or communicate with other people. She needs Sarah’s help with everything she does. In I Have No Secrets the reader is in Jemma’s mind. Seeing what she sees, hearing what she hears, and thinking about all the things people tell her. Since she is incapable of spreading them, people often entrust Jemma with their deepest secrets. In the book, Jemma is told a secret that cannot be kept hidden, a confession to a murder. As readers, we watch as Jemma fights to try to find a way to expose the truth and get justice for a friend. 

There were so many things I loved about this book. I am a sucker for thrillers and for anything with a psychological aspect. Not only was this book a thrill and murder mystery, but Jemma’s character also possesses many relatable attributes. Jemma was developed as a shy teenager who felt invisible and overlooked. These characteristics are easily relatable for most teenagers in the world. Penny Joelson did such an excellent job building the mind space of Jemma and piecing together internal dialogue that at times I forgot that Jemma was a quadriplegic. Jemma is overlooked because she is mute and disabled, but others can relate by just being shy and overlooked. I cannot speak to the relatability to the experiences portrayed in the book as a disabled person, but as a teenage girl I can say that communication is one of the most important things, and to not be able to communicate in any way would be a torture of its own. 

I think this book does a great job of keeping the reader on their toes. The pace of the mystery and the chase to catch the killer was never dull. The fact that the killer came back to interact with Jemma was so impactful. With every interaction, I would find myself angry or concerned with Jemma. 

Another thing that made the book interesting was the relationship between Jodi and Jemma. They started the book as strangers and ended as heroes. As readers, we saw Jodi learn to understand Jemma’s situation more and more. We also see the two form a bond of trust and develop their own form of communication.  

Although the book had many positives I did have some problems while reading. I was expecting a little more psychological disturbance and or mental abuse to the main character. Almost like she is being driven mad because she cannot tell anyone. I can see how this plotline might have made the story “too dark,” but it also would have engaged a new group of readers. 

This book could be classified as a mystery, but those of you who enjoy books featuring Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew, or Flavia de Luce will be thrown off. Yes, this book is a crime mystery, but the narrator is much more entwined into the mystery than detectives like Sherlock and Flavia, who watch from the outside. If you enjoy books such as The Shadow by Alex North or One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus, I Have no Secrets will be a book that keeps your investigative side entertained.