- Release Date: April 22nd 2014
- Genre: Contemporary / Mystery
- Pages: 272
- Publisher: Algonquin For Young Readers
I first heard about The Art of Secrets in January and was instantly intrigued. I really like what Algonquin For Young Readers is doing in terms of diversity and narratives in YA . I've also been into art books and non-traditional narratives so this was a perfect fit !
A fire, a painting and secrets are the fuel for The Art of Secrets. The novel opens with a news clipping from The Chicago Tribune about Saba Kahn and her family coming home to find their apartment burned to the ground by an arsonist. The family is quickly showered with generosity from the parents at Saba's exclusive private school, there is even a charity auction set up. But when a piece of art at the auction is discovered to be worth half a million dollars it is stolen and now everyone is a suspect.
While there are some scenes written in lists, memos and articles it's mostly written in these second person monologues where a character is talking to a reporter or detective. The person the character is addressing doesn't interact, so you have sentences where a character asks a question and then answers it. Like they'll say something like, "Do I know her ? Well let me tell you..." While I like experimental narratives, this didn't work for me. It didn't leave any room for character quirks or subtitles. Slight nitpick; I got secondhand embarrassment every time the popular all American jock, Steve Davinski, referred to someone as dawg.
I did enjoy how this novel explored outsider art, something I wasn't too familiar with. Outsider art is art created by artist who are outside of the mainstream art culture. The outsider artist this book focuses on is Henry Drager who ,as I was reading, I didn't realize was a real person. As with most art books I was Googling at the end of the day to see what the works actually looked like. Drager has a pretty interesting story, I wish the book would have developed this real-life figure more.
The mystery element of this novel is fun because you get a lot of clues so it's a challenge to see if you can solve who did it. Sometimes I can guess how a book is going to end, and I had two suspects in mind, but I turned out to be totally wrong ! The mystery completely got me.