Rachel's Secret

By Shelly Sanders

The Rachel Trilogy Series

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A murder, a secret, and a world torn apart by violence in pre-Revolutionary Russia

Rachel is a Jew living in Kishinev, Russia. At fourteen, she has dreams of being a writer. But everything is put on hold when a young man is murdered and Rachel is forced to keep the murderer’s identity a secret. Tensions mount and Rachel watches as lies and anti-Jewish propaganda leap off the pages of the local newspaper, inciting many to riot against the Jews. Violence breaks out on Easter Sunday, 1903, and when it finally ends, Rachel finds that the person she loves most is dead and that her home has been destroyed. Her main support comes surprisingly from a young Christian named Sergei. With everything against them, the two young people find comfort in their growing bond, one of the few signs of goodness and hope in a time of chaos and violence.

Praise & Recognition

Rachel's Secret would be an excellent addition to a middle school or junior high school study of racism. And although good storytelling is its most important feature, it is also a textbook example of the eight stages of genocide. For example, Sanders integrates the headlines from the newspapers of the day to illustrate the cunning effect of propaganda on people unwilling to ask more questions. Sanders should be commended for her ability to provide the shocking facts of this story while keeping her young adult audience in mind. CM Magazine
Sanders has created a terrific heroine in Rachel. She is feisty and independent, as well as warm and loving. Although Rachel's dreams of being a writer in a bigger world set her apart from her sister and friends, Sanders has grounded her in realistic dialogue and authentic relationships. CM Magazine
Critical for its underexplored subject. Kirkus Reviews
Author Shelly Sanders shrewdly uses the character to give young readers someone to identify with while reading about horrifying events, an approach that renders the information much more accessible. Quill & Quire
Sanders weaves a tale of catastrophe stemming from unbridled hatred, spreading of untruths, and lack of commitment to public safety on the part of officials...In an artful way throughout this absorbing, chilling tale, characters wonder what can stop the tragedy of hatred from overcoming community, a question that will prompt readers to wonder the same. Booklist
This is an excellent candidate for a classroom study in social studies or language arts as well as individual reading for pleasure...The weaving of the personal with the historic is skillful and thought-provoking. This one is a must for a library serving youth. Hopefully, more books will follow from this author. VOYA Magazine
Rachel's Secret tells an important story of an historical event that seems to be overlooked in children's fiction. Resource Links
This powerful and educational story, geared toward teenage readers, continues Second Story Press’ strong tradition of publishing books with strong female characters for teenagers and young adults. The Canadian Jewish News
Rachel's Secret is a strong and recommended pick for historical fiction collections. The Midwest Book Review
This is a very powerful story...memorable in many details days after reading it. It's hard to imagine the suffering and terror felt by the Jewish people of Russia during the 1903 pogrom in Kishniev; but Shelly Sanders makes me feel as if I were standing on the streets, heart pounding and aware of the horror felt by all those persecuted. A family story from her grandmother, a survivor, is rife with the gripping reality of conditions at the time. Sal's Fiction Addiction Blog
I found this a very compelling story that was perhaps only a “young adult novel” with respect to the ages of its characters. Sanders writes beautifully and presents the moral dilemmas and struggles of teenagers with compassion and dignity. Rachel is indeed a heroine, but her story is not formulaic or easy. At the same time, I had no hesitation in passing this book along to my 10-year-old daughter and would recommend it widely. TheRecord.com
The well-written story gives readers a good portrayal of what life was like for Jews in pre-Revolutionary Russia. … The author’s vividly-drawn characters bring the historical period to life while personalizing the story. The reader is kept in suspense about what Rachel will do with her terrible secret. … (It) can spark an excellent discussion about how prejudice happens and how it can be used to distort true facts. AJL Reviews, Association of Jewish Libraries
An excellent discussion starter for exploring the history of anti-Semitism, Rachel’s Secret is recommended for readers ages 10 and up and will appeal to fans of similar novels such as Puppet by Eva Wiseman and The Night of the Burning by Linda Press Wulf. Jewish Book World
What I found the most remarkable about Rachel’s Secret is that this book is based on real-life events. Truth be told, I was a little shaken after reading this. [...] A must-read for any historical fiction fan or those who love mysteries, Rachel’s Secret is just for you. Book Nerd Canada blog
Rachel’s Secret, a young reader’s novel by Shelly Sanders, tackles the pre-1903 period in Kishinev, and offers a dramatic and detailed depiction of the pogrom and its aftermath.... [Sanders] is deft at framing her narrative through the experiences of teenage boys and girls. Canadian Literature

Association of Jewish Libraries' Sydney Taylor Book Award 2013 - Commended

Canadian Children's Book Centre Our Choice Book 2012 - Commended


Publication Date: April 16, 2012

Reading Age: 13 - 19

Genre: Teen, Children's Fiction

Product Format: Paperback

Pages: 256

ISBN: 978-1-926920-37-5

Shelly Sanders

About the Author

Shelly Sanders

Shelly Sanders has worked as a freelance writer for almost twenty years. The character of Rachel in Rachel's Secret and Rachel?s Promise was inspired by Shelly's grandmother, a Russian Jew who fled to Shanghai to escape persecution and then made her way to the United States, where she was the first Jewish woman to be accepted into the University of California, Berkeley?s science program. Shelly lives in Oakville, Ontario with her family.
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