Written by: Brigid Kemmerer
Published by: K Teen
Release date: January 28th 2014
Genres: Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult
Buy: B&N, Amazon, Book Depository
Add on: Goodreads
Nowhere is safe. Not even home…
Nick Merrick is stretched to the breaking point.
Keep his grades sky-high or he’ll never escape his hometown. Keep his brother’s business going or the Merricks will be out on the street. Keep the secret of where he’s going in the evenings from his own twin -- or he’ll lose his family. Keep his mind off the hot, self-assured dancer who’s supposed to be his "girlfriend's" partner.
Of course there’s also the homicidal freak Quinn has taken to hanging around, and the Elemental Guide counting the hours until he can try again to kill the Merrick brothers.
There’s a storm coming. From all sides. And then some.
Nick Merrick, can you keep it together?
I’ve come to a conclusion about the Elemental series. I know some people find them somewhat predictably formulaic or whatever, but I don’t care. I am absolutely addicted to them. Why? Basically: 1) Kemmerer is a pro at creating complex, real characters, and 2) she knows how to hit me right in the feels.
Like the other three books in this series — Storm, Spark, and Spirit — Secret centers on one of the 5 main characters of the series; this time, it’s Nick Merrick’s turn. Nick has been one of my favorite characters since the beginning. There has always been something about him that I loved, that I wanted to know more about, but we hadn’t seen too terribly much of him yet. And I can easily say that Nick’s book is the one I was looking forward to the most, basically since I finished reading Storm so long ago, but especially after reading Nick’s novella, Breathless.
Well, after all the anticipation and buildup to this book, I can honestly say that it delivered, and then some.
I’m going to keep my mouth shut about any outright spoilers regarding Secret‘s main “secret” (there’s more than one), because I’m not sure how many readers have actually started this series yet, and you need to go into it knowing nothing (guys. GUYS. You have got to read this series).
Secret‘s title, more than any of the others, refers to much more than the main character, Nick. There are so many secrets in these characters’ lives, Nick’s and Quinn’s and others… and they all end up being hugely important in this book. There isn’t tons of “plotty” stuff going on with the Elementals in Secret, though — except for the beginning, and the explosive ending (seriously omg my feels during that ending. I cannot even).
Secret is probably is the most character-driven story out of all of them so far, and honestly? I think that’s why I loved it so much.
Without giving the entire book away, and outright spoiling anyone who’s reading this review who hasn’t started the series yet, I do want to touch on a few overarching things that Nick is going through in Secret, because they are things that were handled so extremely well, and they’re things that, even if you’re not going through exactly what Nick is going through, we can all relate to on some level. I don’t think a single person would be able to read this book and not connect with Nick and the emotional struggle he’s going through.
First, Nick is from a family of 4 brothers — him, his twin Gabriel, his younger brother Chris, and oldest brother Michael. Growing up with his brothers, Nick places himself under a lot of pressure to live up to their expectations, and he always always makes sure that they see what they expect to see in him — what he thinks they want to see. He struggles hugely with hiding who he is, because of those expectations that (he believes) he needs to meet. As a result, he ends up feeling like the side of him that he hides actually makes him weak; he thinks that, in the eyes of his brothers and those around him, it makes him less than what he should be. The fact that he’s been made to feel this way is not okay, and was the cause of many many FEELS throughout the book.
Nick’s story in Secret is about his journey — he goes from letting the people around him dictate his actions, to realizing that he has a right to be himself — he needs to be himself — despite what others might expect or think. My favorite thing about Secret is this emotional journey, seeing Nick go from complete denial, to acceptance, to happiness. I honestly can’t remember the number of times I got teary and just wanted to reach through the book and give Nick the biggest hug ever, first because my heart was hurting so much for him, and then because of the place he’s at when the book concludes… UGH. I’m tearing up right now. Moving on.
In addition to Nick, we get a lot more background about a few new- or not-yet-fully-developed characters from previous books.
The POV in Secret alternates between Nick and Quinn, so Quinn is the other main character who gets the most development. I was a little wary of this at first, because Quinn never struck me as a particularly great character — or person — in previous books. But (just like my initial reaction to Hunter was totally changed during his book, Spirit) my impression of Quinn was totally flipped on its head over the course of Secret. There is so much more to her than we’ve seen previously, and I dare you to not come out of Secret with a vastly different view of her character.
Also, there’s a somewhat new character on the scene, Adam. I cannot say much about Adam because spoilers, but omg. Just… So much love for his character. Soooo much. (He’s another reason for the major FEELS in this book. I can’t even.)
And finally, the absolute most surprising character in this book was the “homicidal freak Quinn has taken to hanging around”. I won’t say who it is, but man. I was not expecting this character to a) be so prominent, and b) become a character I am now really invested in. He’s another one who totally surprised me. Just… ugh. Kemmerer’s characters, guys. I can’t.
One HUGE thing I’ve noticed about the Elemental series, as it goes on, is the absolutely fantastic way Kemmerer reveals things about her characters. People are complicated, guys. Our views of people are complicated, and it’s impossible to get the whole picture of a person from an initial impression, or even after hanging out with them a few times — especially when we’re forming views about these people through the eyes of others, as well: people who like them, or people who don’t, or people who could really care less but who think they know things about them. Every character in these books is so much more than what we’re aware of at first, they’re layered and complicated and maybe a little unlikeable, but then you get to know more about them, about their situations, about their lives…
I just love that all the main characters in Brigid’s books are treated like real PEOPLE, with real histories, and real motivations and hang-ups, real flaws and issues, but also real goodness that surfaces despite these things.
There’s something uplifting about all of Kemmerer’s books, for me. Secret especially, but all of them to an extent, because they’re about characters who are trying to find themselves, and accept themselves, and be accepted by others, and finding the balance between all those things. The plot and paranormal elements to these books are great, but it really is the characters that make these books so wonderful to me. Brigid ends up surprising me with these characters at every turn (though I should really stop being surprised, because I’ve been proven so wrong about so many characters, time and time again…).
Really, guys, if you haven’t read this series and you love character-driven YA, you neeeeeed to. (Also there are hot boys and swoons. But did I mention the characters? The characters though. I can’t.)