Malou has just turned sixteen, hardly old enough to be out in the world on her own, and all she knows for sure is that she’s of mixed race and that she was left at an orphanage as a newborn. When the orphanage burns to the ground, she finds out that she may have been born in a small town in Ontario’s cottage country. Much to her surprise, Parry Sound turns out to have quite a few young brown faces, but Malou can’t believe they might be related to her. After she finds work as a cleaner in the local hospital, an Aboriginal boy named Jimmy helps her find answers to her questions about her parents. The answers are as stunning, and life-changing, as anything Malou could have imagined back at the orphanage.
In a compelling genealogical mystery set in 1964 Ontario one of seven interlinked novels in the Secrets series, publishing simultaneously mixed-race 16-year-old Malou Gillis embarks on a quest to illuminate her heritage. Spat out into the harsh world after her orphanage burns down, Malou makes her way to the town of Parry Sound, where an old hospital bracelet is her only link to the family that abandoned her. She accidentally lands a job as a cleaner in the medical center and, with her newfound freedom and income, has other firsts like a date with a Mexican orderly, Frankie, who helps her discover that something larger is at play in her past. Malou is braver than she knows, hitting a dead end almost immediately but using the false start to make her first friend. Through this inspiring heroine and characters that include a gay, biracial couple living as sisters-in-law, Jocelyn illuminates racial and social inequality as significant today as it was during the civil rights movement. Poignant and resonant, it's an important exploration for readers seeking their own identities. Ages 12 up.