Joan Dower Kosmachuk

Windflower Communications, Winnipeg

1995, pp 77, $6.95

Reviewed by Sue Careless

Jenny’s secret isn’t one for long.  Rumours fly fast and false in junior high.  Fourteen-year –old Jenny isn’t pregnant, her mother is—and she doesn’t have a husband.

Jenny’s mum says it’s going to be too hard raising the baby alone.  Jenny is willing to help her, so why is her mother considering adoption?  Jenny must face the taunts of the other teens who chalk on the blackboard, “What kind of mother gives her kid away?”  Jenny wonders herself.

Joan Dower Kosmachuk has done it again.  Jenny’s Secret is a sequel to Rebecca’s Summer, although each book can stand on its own.  Again Kosmachuk takes an indirect approach.  Why not go to more sensational route and have Jenny pregnant?  Certainly grade eight girls do get pregnant.

Young readers don’t necessarily identify with a pregnant teen.  “The young reader can use denial, “I‘d never get pregnant.  I’m not like this girl.’  But anyone’s mother can get pregnant,” says Kosmachuk.  “Denial won’t work with mothers.”  And so the more  gentle angle allows readers to face issues they might otherwise avoid.

Yet when one more sibling was on his way to join their cash-strapped family, Rebecca’s Summer, had urged her mother to have an abortion.  Jenny’s situation is no easier financially, and is harder psychologically without a father; but unlike Rebecca, Jenny is more than willing to pitch in and help her mum raise the new baby.  Jenny’s Secret looks at the option of adoption, and the complexities surrounding it.

Joan Kosmachuk has been Executive Director of Jewels for Jesus Missio

n and Jewels for Jesus Adoption Agency in Mississauga for six years.  As an experienced counselor she knows the real-life stresses and strains on whole families as they hit these issues head-on.

But Kosmachuk is  not only a compassionate and clear-thinking counsellor, she is also a gifted writer who can script a plot with the speed and grace young readers appreciate.  A parallel subplot helps focus and reinforce her theme.

Two small quibbles,.  The three friends, Jenny, Kate and Rebecca, are hard to tell apart.  They seem defined primarily by their circumstances, not by their characters. (And they live in a generic, no-name world devoid of any commercialism.  They never drink Pepsi or devour Doritos.)

But the plot is compelling and the dialogue smooth.  The issues are deftly dealt with, seamlessly woven into the novel’s structure.

Both Jenny’s Secret and Rebecca’s Summer are suitable for grade five and up and should be in every junior high library.