Review: Trading Secrets by Melody Carlson

Trading Secrets by Melody Carlson

Back in fifth grade, Micah Knight got an Amish pen pal, and over the years, they’ve exchanged many letters–and many secrets. At age seventeen, Micah finally has the chance to meet her pen pal face-to-face. The only problem is that because of confusion about her name when the pen pals were assigned, her pen pal was a boy, Zack Miller. And all this time, Micah’s never told Zack that she’s actually a girl! While she wants nothing more than to experience life on Zack’s Amish farm, she’s afraid he’ll hate her for deceiving him all these years. But she makes up her mind to face the music–and that’s where the fun really begins.

Title: Trading Secrets
Author: Melody Carlson
Source: Borrowed from library
Publication date: October 21, 2014

In fifth grade, Micah invited her Amish pen pal to visit her. Now, six years later, he’s ready to take her up on the offer. Things come up and he’s unable to get away from the farm, so he invites her to visit him instead. Micah, knowing full well that Zack thinks she’s a boy, decides to go. She dresses as a boy for their initial meeting, but she can’t keep the charade up and confesses the truth to Zack and his whole family the first night. I’m so glad she didn’t keep deceiving them, because she was being so disrespectful of their beliefs in their own home. When the males sat on one side of the table and the females sat on the other, of course Micah, dressed as a boy, had to sit with the men. She kept her hat (hiding her long hair) and jacket (hiding her figure) on in the house — and his parents definitely noticed and disapproved (of the hat, anyway). If she had continued pretending to be a guy, she would have had to sleep in Zack’s room instead of with his sisters. I’m pretty sure his parents would have been livid when they found out the truth if that had happened.

They, especially his mother, already don’t like her, probably because she’s been lying about not being a boy for so long. Micah tries several times to leave early and go home, but she keeps missing the bus and having to return to Zack’s parents’ farm. Zack’s mother can barely contain her hostility, especially once she injures her foot and needs Micah’s help in the kitchen. Unfortunately, Micah’s not the domestic type and manages to do a terrible job.

Micah, meanwhile, is dreaming of living as the Amish do. It’s a simple life in a picturesque setting, but I think she’s missing some crucial points about the Amish and their culture. It would be pretty difficult for an outsider, especially a girl with as much freedom as Micah has, to adapt to Amish life. All she has to do to see that is look at the lives Zack’s sisters and his mother live. I did love a conversation between Micah and the sisters about Rachel, an Amish girl with her sights set on Zack, that shows that despite having fundamentally different beliefs, the Amish and the English aren’t all that different. People are people, after all.

I don’t know much about the Amish other than what I’ve read in books or seen on reality TV, but it’s pretty clear from the start that Zack is either on his way out of the Amish or he’s just not very good at being Amish. He’s interested in airplanes, he tells Micah that it’s okay for her to take pictures of his family as long as they’re not close up — and that he wouldn’t mind if she took closeups of him, he checks out books on biology from the library on the sly to further his education on his own, and he agrees to ride in a car. (I think that at least some Amish can ride in cars anyway, they just can’t drive them, but he says his parents wouldn’t like it.)

Trading Secrets is my first of her Amish books, but I have read other books by Melody Carlson that I liked better. This one is fairly unrealistic, but still enjoyable.I was never bored, but I would have liked a little more realism. Surprisingly, there’s not really any romance even though Micah continues to have feelings for Zack throughout the book.

3 1/2 stars