In the mid-1960s, sex is dangerous. Having sex can ruin your family, ruin your future, or worse.
From Karen Lee Boren, author of Mother Tongue and Girls in Peril, Secret Waltz follows the coming-of-age journeys of three teens whose lives are turned upside down by the secrets they keep.
Early 1960s Milwaukee, four best friends, Will, Kirstin, Leo, and Emelia, are growing up together, finding themselves and what it means to be a budding adult. They do all the things teens do-hang out at the pool, bike everywhere, and discover their bodies.
But this growing up thing is hard. On her 16th birthday Emelia receives stunning news from her aunts who raised her. Seems they've been keeping a secret from her for her entire life, one that forces Emelia to re-evaluate everything she thought she know about her family and herself, sending her on a journey of discovery with few tools and no idea what she might find along the way.
Meanwhile, Leo is struggling with his abusive father, who leads a polka band, drinks too much, and cheats on Leo's mother. Leo plays the guitar. He's good, too. But his father wants Leo to stay away from that so-called music of rock and roll. Their relationship is complex: Leo both looks up to and hates his father for the control he has over his music and his life.
All that is hard enough, but then Leo and Emelia and their friends Will and Kirstin stumble across Sonya, someone they've seen at school but don't really know, doing what to them is an inexplicable and horrifying act. What should they do? What can they do? This begins a chain of actions that escalate and spiral out of their control.
In the end, Secret Waltz asks, what does it mean to be a "good girl" or a "good boy"? If you have a secret, do you get to still be "good"?
"Karen Lee Boren's characters, each with their own compelling combination of naivete and bravery, crackle with realism." --Robert Arellano, author of Edgar Award-finalist Havana Lunar
"Engaging characters, evocative landscape, beautiful writing: these are the highlights-and the delights-of Karen Lee Boren's novel Secret Waltz"-Tina Egnoski, author of Burn Down This World
"With its spot-on depiction of life in middle America in the 1960s and its compassionate rendering of the emotional lives of teenagers, Secret Waltz is an urgent reminder that hard-won rights can be reversed. This is an important book-and a terrific read, with characters you'll be rooting for even as your heart is breaking for them"-Jane Eklund, author of The Story So Far