Rating: 3.75/5 stars
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery, Fantasy, Paranormal, Fiction
The Secrets series revolves around the seven oldest girls at the Benevolent Home for Necessitous Girls in Hope, Ontario after their orphanage burns down. Written around the premise that everyone has secrets, each story revolves around one of these girls and the secrets she possesses. The Unquiet Past deals with Tess’s visions and her quest to find out anything she can about her past.
Tess has to deal with being alone for the first time in her life – and at only 16 in the year 1964, that’s not the safest thing to be. Thankfully, Tess is able to find someone she trusts who’s willing to help her find out the questions she’s looking for.
While I found this story to be action packed and fast paced for the most part, the ending still felt a little rushed. Instead of getting to experience the resolution, I felt like Armstrong just threw everything together behind the scenes and then laid it out neatly for the reader. Knowing that this story does not have a sequel per se, I still would have liked to see things play out a little bit more.
My disappointment with the ending of this story is what ultimately led me to reducing my rating of this book from a 4 to a 3.75. While this is still a good rating (to me at least), I’ve seen Armstrong do so much better. I love her writing, which is why she remains one of my top favourite authors of all time, but feel like this story didn’t hold up to the rest of her works that I’ve read.
That being said, I did really enjoy this read. I look forward to picking up the other books in the series and reading the stories about the other girls and their secrets. Since each book is written by a different author, I can’t wait to see how the different writing styles are able to make the world a cohesive whole.
One of the things I loved most about this story was being able to picture the scenes as they happen. While Armstrong didn’t go into too much detail about the scenery, I’ve been to almost every place that was talked about in this story. While I know that the story takes place in 1964, a good 55 years ago, there are certain things that haven’t changed too much since then. McGill, for example, has been modernized but much of the architecture is still the same. I was able to picture Tess and Jackson going through campus on their quest to find the truth.
Sure, I’ve been to modern day Montreal, but that doesn’t stop me from being able to imagine what it would have been like 55 years ago. Since I’ve also gotten the chance to explore Old Montreal, I found it easy to picture Tess exploring the streets when she first got there.
Another thing I enjoyed was the complexities within Tess and Jackson’s relationship. Both of them were trying to keep the truth close to their chests, and it bit them both in the ass. Tess didn’t want to admit that she was seeing “ghosts” while Jackson didn’t want to admit that he was there for the same reason as her. They were strangers, after all.
The extent to which Jackson went in order to try and get back into Tess’s good graces shows that he knew he messed up. Sure, he should have realized his mistake before a family “friend” outed him, but he still tried to make things up to her. His biggest mistake in the moment was trusting Dr. Augustin.
Knowing very little about sensory deprivation myself, I found it interesting the twist it had in this book. While it can be used for good, and is stilled used today, there’s also a chance that it’ll be used for evil instead. Dr. Hebb tried to better the world with his research, stopping when he realized he’d gone too far. Dr. Augustin, on the other hand, kept going past the point of ethical research while trying to reach his end goal. To Dr. Augustin, the ends definitely justified the means.
Finally, I agree with the sentiment that orphanages shouldn’t exist. While I know that sounds harsh, there are so many people – good people – who aren’t able to have children themselves but want them. One of my own family members struggled with the adoption process for almost 10 years before finally being able to adopt her son – who she loves with all of her heart. I understand the need to make sure that everyone who’s adopting is going to be able to take care of the child and give the child a good home, but that doesn’t stop me from wishing that both potential adoptees and potential parents were able to find a family to love. I wish that orphanages didn’t exist because that would mean that every child who needs a home has one.