ARC Review: The Secret History of Us by Jessi Kirby

“Jessi Kirby’s books just keep getting better and better, and The Secret History of Us is her best yet. It beautifully touches on all the most important things in life—love, family, friendship, memory, and bacon. I loved it.”

—Morgan Matson, New York Times bestselling author of The Unexpected Everything

Rating: 4 out of 5

Expected publication: August 1st 2017 by HarperTeen


When Olivia awakes in a hospital bed following a car accident that almost took her life, she can’t remember the details about how she got there. She figures the fog is just a symptom of being in a week-long coma, but as time goes on, she realizes she’s lost more than just the last several days of her life—she’s lost her memory of the last four years. Gone is any recollection of starting or graduating high school; the prom; or her steady boyfriend Matt. Trying to figure out who she is feels impossible when everyone keeps telling her who she was.

As Liv tries to block out what her family and friends say about who she used to be, the one person she hasn’t heard enough from is Walker, the guy who saved her the night her car was knocked off that bridge into the bay below. Walker is the hardened boy who’s been keeping his distance—and the only person Olivia inexplicably feels herself with. With her feelings growing for Walker, tensions rising with Matt, and secrets she can’t help but feel are being kept from her, Olivia must find her place in a life she doesn’t remember living.


I've read a couple of books that start with a girl suffering from amnesia. The first was Shelly Crane's Wide Awake and the second, Jennifer L. Armentrout's Don't Look Back. Both books dealt with what happened after in different ways. However, in both books the female protaganist decides she doesn't like the person she was before.

What I liked about The Secret History of Us, is firstly it's solely about a girl dealing with amnesia and getting past the first few weeks. Yes, there's a bit of a backstory but it isn't the essence of the story.

 TSHoU starts with another person describing Liv's first moments as she's pulled out of the water. She looks dead. Her heart isn't beating. Someone starts CPR. At the end we don't know whether she's alive or dead. All things considered she might be the latter.

The first 20% we live (huh!) inside Liv's head. These are her first moments of consciousness. Feeling, emotion, physical pain, motor functions. Gradually Liv comes round and starts to meet her family again. The major ice pick to the heart is she doesn't recognise her boyfriend, Matt. Alarm bells ring in her mind. She doesn't remember him or, after thorough checks, the last four years of her life.

Here's where I can compare this book more favourably from the others (and I loved those too!) because although they developed this 'missing memories' hunt to great extent in their books, TSHoU is only about how you deal with missing your teenage years. Do you push and visit all your old haunts? Hang around your old friends hoping your life will pop back into place? The character Paige, Liv's best friend, puts it very well. She say, "You show a different side to your friends than you do to your parents" and "Because, you know, the actual details of your life and relationships are gonna be a little bit different from the ones your mum knows."

Of course, Paige is right, and later on, Liv's mother says something similar. We all have different personas with different people whether we're aware of it or not. We don't always tell all of our friends and family everything tiny thing about our lives. When you're a teenager and all those feelings and emotions multiply by a thousand, how exactly would you deal with trying to essentially find out who your teenage self is? At that age it's all about boys, clothes, friends, hanging out. But what Liv finds out is even more telling in the way she trusts her gut feeling. She begins to accept that friends and family want her to be who they want her to be.

There's a whole lot more going on, of course, particularly regarding the person who did bring Liv back to life. But I don't want to spoil the whole party just yet. Jessi Kirby has nailed this with a quirky, endearing lesson for all of us and I'd like to thank Jessi and HarperTeen for the opportunity to read this arc copy. TSHoU is a thoughtful, quirky tale of amnesia and beyond.

 - CBx


Jessi Kirby is a writer for young adults whose first book, Moonglass, was named an ABA New Voices Pick. She has also written three other novels—In Honor, Golden, and Things We Know By Heart. Jessi works as a middle school librarian in Orange County, California, where she lives with her husband and two kids.

You can find Jessi Kirby here:

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