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I Have No Secrets by Penny Joelson
Young adult

I Have No Secrets

by Penny Joelson

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Quick take

A voice for the voiceless, literally. It'll make you think about how to better listen to those who can't speak.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Emotional


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FastRead

    Fast read

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SocialIssues

    Social issues

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FamilyDrama

    Family drama


Jemma knows who the murderer is. She knows because he told her.

He thought his secret was safe because Jemma can't speak or move.

But Jemma observes all kinds of things about everyone around her. His secret is just one of them.

And when a new technology means she may be able to communicate and reveal all she knows, Jemma no longer feels powerless in the face of this deadly secret. It's a race against time before the killer acts again...or tries to stop her.

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Free sample

Check out a preview of I Have No Secrets.
I Have No Secrets


I tense up as soon as I hear the doorbell. I know it’s him. I know it’s Dan. Sarah’s still upstairs getting ready, and I hope she comes down soon. I don’t want him coming in here.

Mom calls up to Sarah, and I hear Sarah say she’ll be down in a minute. “We’ve been keeping her busy, I’m afraid,” Mom tells Dan, “so she hasn’t had much time to get ready!”

“I know she wouldn’t have it any other way,” says Dan. “She’s a gem—and you too. What you do for these kids.”

I listen to them chatting away and Mom laughing at Dan’s jokes. Everyone loves Dan. Then Mom says she has to get back to the kitchen—she’s left things on the stove and she’s sure Sarah won’t be long.

It’s quiet for a moment. I hear the distant clattering of pans in the kitchen. Then I hear Dan’s voice, coming closer as he speaks.

“What show are you watching? Ah...Pointless!”

I can hear him breathing. Then he whispers, “A little like your life, isn’t it, Jemma?”

He’s standing behind me now, but I can’t see him because my wheelchair is facing the TV. I try to focus on the game show questions and forget he’s there, but he gives a long, dramatic sigh.

“Don’t know how you can stand it.” His voice is low, not loud enough to be overheard. “Watching television must be the most excitement you get.” He only speaks like this when no one else is around. He used to ignore me completely, but not anymore.

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Why I love it

“If I were you, I’d kill myself. Listen, if you ever want a little help, I could —”

Jemma is a sixteen-year-old girl with cerebral palsy, unable to speak or move without assistance. Her world is mainly her home—her mom, an aide, and the aide’s ever-present boyfriend, Dan. Outwardly, Dan is charming and kind, but secretly, he’s a bully: the kind of person who whispers horrible things to Jemma, like the above … and the fact that he’s a murderer.

Dan knows his secret is safe with Jemma. That is, until a scientific breakthrough gives Jemma the chance to communicate and tell all she knows. Suddenly, she’s no longer a passive bystander to a crime. Suddenly, her life is on the line.

This is a seriously creepy read with an ending you won’t see coming. Jemma is a clear-eyed heroine with some truly long odds to overcome, and you’ll root for her as she fights for her life against an off-kilter killer unafraid to strike again. Thank you, Penny Joelson, for this unique read—but no thanks for freaking us out so much! ;)

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Member ratings (489)

  • Jaymie J.

    Elmendorf, TX

    I’ve worked with individuals with disabilities. It’s touching to read a story from their eyes and point of view. How fortunate we are to live such a simple life. Penny Joelson did spectacular work.

  • Chelsea R.

    Methuen, MA

    Wow! I binged this in one sitting. Jemma’s internal voice was amazing to read the struggle to communicate with people must be difficult, especially knowing who the killer is. This was just incredible!

  • Liz B.

    New Britain, CT

    This was a tough read - the author does an incredible job of making you feel like you’re in Jemma’s head, so much so that it was uncomfortable at times. Incredibly well done and a compelling story.

  • Olivia M.

    Rockwood, PA

    Normally, I don't go for PC books. This is the exception. Beautifully and uniquely written, Joelson crafts an awesome thriller through the eyes of a very disabled girl, who my heart went out to.

  • Christina D.

    New Holland, PA

    LOVED LOVED LOVED! Loved that it was written from the perspective of a person with a disability often overlooked. Loved that she was given a voice. Loved the complex relationships and growth.

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