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All the Secrets of the World

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"The scorpion hunts while the rest of us dream. That's why he knows all the secrets of the world." It's 1981 in Sacramento and 13-year-old Lorena Saenz has just been paired with Jenny Stallworth for the science fair by a well-meaning teacher hoping to unite two girls from starkly different worlds. The unlikely friendship they form will draw their families into a web of secr "The scorpion hunts while the rest of us dream. That's why he knows all the secrets of the world." It's 1981 in Sacramento and 13-year-old Lorena Saenz has just been paired with Jenny Stallworth for the science fair by a well-meaning teacher hoping to unite two girls from starkly different worlds. The unlikely friendship they form will draw their families into a web of secrets and lies, one that sends Lorena on an unforgiving odyssey through the desert, past the gates of a religious cult in Mexico, and into the dark heart of America's criminal justice system. A sweeping social novel, All the Secrets of the World introduces readers to a cast of indelible characters while illuminating the moment in our national history when the call for law and order became the dominant force within our public life. For fans of both Little Fires Everywhere and Breaking Bad, Steve Almond's long-awaited debut novel is a propulsive tour de force--the sheer scope, moral complexities, and piercing insights mark a writer at the height of his powers.


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"The scorpion hunts while the rest of us dream. That's why he knows all the secrets of the world." It's 1981 in Sacramento and 13-year-old Lorena Saenz has just been paired with Jenny Stallworth for the science fair by a well-meaning teacher hoping to unite two girls from starkly different worlds. The unlikely friendship they form will draw their families into a web of secr "The scorpion hunts while the rest of us dream. That's why he knows all the secrets of the world." It's 1981 in Sacramento and 13-year-old Lorena Saenz has just been paired with Jenny Stallworth for the science fair by a well-meaning teacher hoping to unite two girls from starkly different worlds. The unlikely friendship they form will draw their families into a web of secrets and lies, one that sends Lorena on an unforgiving odyssey through the desert, past the gates of a religious cult in Mexico, and into the dark heart of America's criminal justice system. A sweeping social novel, All the Secrets of the World introduces readers to a cast of indelible characters while illuminating the moment in our national history when the call for law and order became the dominant force within our public life. For fans of both Little Fires Everywhere and Breaking Bad, Steve Almond's long-awaited debut novel is a propulsive tour de force--the sheer scope, moral complexities, and piercing insights mark a writer at the height of his powers.

30 review for All the Secrets of the World

  1. 5 out of 5

    Betsy Robinson

    I’m a Steve Almond fan from two short story anthologies, his insightful political nonfiction, Bad Stories , and our common reverence for John Williams’s Stoner (expressed so eloquently by Almond and many other writers, a so-called group of “Stoners,” in the documentary The Act of Becoming ). So when I heard Almond’s first novel was being published, I rushed to get an advanced reading copy. My experience of Almond’s work led me to expect hilarity, edginess, and first-rate compassion-based p I’m a Steve Almond fan from two short story anthologies, his insightful political nonfiction, Bad Stories , and our common reverence for John Williams’s Stoner (expressed so eloquently by Almond and many other writers, a so-called group of “Stoners,” in the documentary The Act of Becoming ). So when I heard Almond’s first novel was being published, I rushed to get an advanced reading copy. My experience of Almond’s work led me to expect hilarity, edginess, and first-rate compassion-based philosophy and politics, so I was really surprised when the first hundred or so pages of All the Secrets of the World read like a YA novel about an immigrant Hispanic 13-year-old girl. Simply because I’m not that interested in YA, I might have abandoned this book if it were written by anyone but Steve Almond. Even though I prefer going into books blind, about 100 pages in I checked the publisher’s description for reassurance that the writer I want to read was doing something of adult substance. Yes, the copy assured me, something exciting was coming. And boy, I’m glad I kept reading. This is not only a book of substance, but a tour de force of technique—divided into five Book sections that intentionally and organically build from YA simplicity to no-nonsense police detective-story genre to full-on poetic literary sophistication with a gloriously transcendent ending. (If you’re a Stoner aficionado, you may recognize the narrative and character influences—I swear it’s impossible not to have them if Stoner is part of your foundation.) It’s perfectly paced, eventually weaving the genres together with a lot of journalistic narrative. There is some beautiful writing about a terrain and self-destructive human flaws reminiscent of my favorite TV drama, Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad (which I consider on a par with Shakespeare for its themes, characters, and poetry; I suspect this is another work that Almond and I revere). And eventually there’s some badly needed, delightfully entertaining humor in the banter of Hispanic cops (cousins) going rogue and the aforementioned Young Adult immigrant heroine. There is nothing wrong with appropriating from great artists as long as you have fully digested the magic so that the influence morphs into your own work, from your own muse and soul. And Steve Almond has done that. I like the contradictions in the young heroine, Lorena. She is shy, innocent, a science geek, and given to great passion and contradictory actions when her commitment to justice is tweaked. That rang true and I don’t know that I’ve read it before. (And it would be a choice role for an actress.*) All the Secrets of the World goes to such unexpected places. Sometimes it’s like an escalating fever dream; other times it’s an exercise in exhaustion—in a good way; you feel the same wearing down that the characters are enduring. There is a detective mystery, philosophical quandaries, and perversion in many forms (personal, religious, hyperbolic frenzy resulting in “Bad Stories”). In other words, it is a gripping story of our cultural mess in the form of a big commercial multi-genre crime and unjust punishment novel. I love the particularly Steve-Almond theme—how distorted our reality is by exaggerations, part-truths, and a lack of nuance because blanket good and bad stories fuel our lust for drama and sense of superiority. And how transformation only comes from exploring the dark matter within us (yet another obsession I share with Almond; I’m starting to wonder if we’re related). I also loved the exposed innocence (meaning “vulnerability”) of some of the characters—people who are condemned by our American culture to stereotypes. This can break your heart if you let it. As the tension of false truth rises, Almond sometimes gives the reader a release. Just when you want to scream or punch someone, you get to see a true truth that happens in the future and is either seeded into the narrative or is revealed by the chronology of the storytelling. Or, in the case of the scene that fueled my comment about exhaustion, you get a clinical explanation of what the character and you are feeling. These seeds of clarity not only give the reader some necessary hope amidst the frustration and pain, but act as teasers, pushing the plot forward. He didn’t borrow this from anyone I recognize; perhaps one day I’ll borrow it from him. All in all, a really good book. And did I mention the ending is transcendent? Thanks to Zando for the ARC. ___________ *2/16/22 Update It was just announced that the book is being adapted into a television series. I predict a winner. * * * This is a mainly technical review and there are two reasons for that: (1) As I mentioned, I prefer not knowing plot before reading a novel and I am not interested in recounting it; if you want to know more plot, read the publisher’s book copy. And (2) I found myself reading this book as a writer watching another writer work his chops. So that’s what I hope I’ve conveyed. If you are a writer or a student of writing or one of Steve Almond’s students (I’ve heard he’s a fabulous teacher), you may appreciate my take more than a “real reader.”

  2. 4 out of 5

    Stella Lee

    I’m sure it’s an unpopular opinion, but the first 50 pages will not be excused in my eyes. The author visited my school, and the chapter he read as well as his interesting demeanor encouraged me to give this book a go. From the beginning, I could sense that something was wrong with how the relationship between Lorena and Mr. Stallworth was written—had no one told me she was 13, I would have thought she was 30. It was beyond creepy to see the relationship go both ways and I think that Almond real I’m sure it’s an unpopular opinion, but the first 50 pages will not be excused in my eyes. The author visited my school, and the chapter he read as well as his interesting demeanor encouraged me to give this book a go. From the beginning, I could sense that something was wrong with how the relationship between Lorena and Mr. Stallworth was written—had no one told me she was 13, I would have thought she was 30. It was beyond creepy to see the relationship go both ways and I think that Almond really stepped over some boundaries in this first portion of the book. The way she is described is also very problematic; Lorena almost speaks to a stereotype of sexualizing young Latina women. After some *questionable* encounters, the relationship is over when Mr. Stallworth disappears. Still, it left a bad taste in my mouth for the ensuing 350 pages. I feel as though Almond tried to do too much in this book and it came off as not genuine and almost “edgy”. It was very much a disappointment and I would not recommend unless you are prepared to be disturbed.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dorothy Rice

    I spent two entire days, and most of two nights reading ALL THE SECRETS OF THE WORLD. I couldn’t put it down. This is a seriously crazy and intense book. There’s the backdrop of Sacramento in the 1980s and the Reagan presidency, the Fabulous Forties, the politics of the Sacramento police department, issues of race and privilege, immigration law and its devastating impact on families, up close and personal with characters you've come to care intensely about, plus astrology, astronomy, polygamy, a I spent two entire days, and most of two nights reading ALL THE SECRETS OF THE WORLD. I couldn’t put it down. This is a seriously crazy and intense book. There’s the backdrop of Sacramento in the 1980s and the Reagan presidency, the Fabulous Forties, the politics of the Sacramento police department, issues of race and privilege, immigration law and its devastating impact on families, up close and personal with characters you've come to care intensely about, plus astrology, astronomy, polygamy, and lots and lots of scorpions. And that’s by no means all. The best part? I never once stopped reading and thought, seriously? Or, what! Nor was I ever confused or disoriented. Worried, upset, outraged, sad? Sure. But I kept turning the pages, compelled to find out what would happen next. This novel will make your brain work, and Lorena, the young female protagonist, is a powerful and empathetic character, shaped, but not defined by the life she inherits and the people whose paths she crosses. Having said all of that, it’s hard to believe that ALL THE SECRETS OF THE WORLD, is Steve Almond’s debut novel. You gotta read this novel. It's both entertaining and important.

  4. 5 out of 5

    luxie ♡

    All the Secrets of the World sucked me in like a Hoover! It was complex, riddled me with anxiety, and had me staying up all hours of the night dying to know what happens next. It begins like an unraveling teen girl drama: we see the world through Lorena’s eyes as she visits the sprawling Stallworth home, admires the family dynamics so unlike her own, and develops a dynamic love/hate friendship with Jenny (but also Mr. Stallworth). That teen drama seamlessly switches to detective tale as we follo All the Secrets of the World sucked me in like a Hoover! It was complex, riddled me with anxiety, and had me staying up all hours of the night dying to know what happens next. It begins like an unraveling teen girl drama: we see the world through Lorena’s eyes as she visits the sprawling Stallworth home, admires the family dynamics so unlike her own, and develops a dynamic love/hate friendship with Jenny (but also Mr. Stallworth). That teen drama seamlessly switches to detective tale as we follow Pablo Guerrero through his investigation--and this is where all the anxiety began to kick in. Reading through the Hispanic lens is something I love to see out of a book because there are so many different experiences in any given ethnicity. Plus, we love to root for our gente! So this book tore at me when Lorena and Guerrero sat on opposite sides of the law. I wanted to root for Guerrero but I couldn’t help but feel like he was in the wrong, making horrible decisions that had me freaking out a bit. Not to mention the crooked cops that controlled him and their motives as well. To be honest though, that made the book so much more exciting because it had me questioning what was real and what wasn’t. So anxious to know what the outcome was going to be. And still, rooting endlessly. My only issue was that I felt it did a bit of telling instead of showing, especially regarding characters’ thoughts and feelings. Telling us nuances that could be picked up or inferred through their behavior instead of outright saying why they did what they did. Sometimes it’s fun to draw those conclusions on your own as a reader and it felt like the book did all the thinking for me. But that’s very minor in the grand scheme of an exciting story. This book was unafraid, fun, and frustrating, but man was it a damn good read. I highly recommend to anyone who loves adventure, deserts, and complex human experiences. I received an eARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Pat Pujolas

    This author is one of the best living American short story writers, but I didn't feel the same mastery, nuance, and poignance in this novel. It's possible that I was holding him to a higher standard, demanding that his novel rank among the very best in the world. It's also possible that I've read too many novels lately where an aging white male teacher or authority figure falls in love with a 16-year-old girl to kick off the storyline. Of course, there's a great amount of brilliance here, but I This author is one of the best living American short story writers, but I didn't feel the same mastery, nuance, and poignance in this novel. It's possible that I was holding him to a higher standard, demanding that his novel rank among the very best in the world. It's also possible that I've read too many novels lately where an aging white male teacher or authority figure falls in love with a 16-year-old girl to kick off the storyline. Of course, there's a great amount of brilliance here, but I just can't recommend this prolonged work, when his short fiction dazzles so brightly and incredibly.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Michael Hassel Shearer

    All the Secrets of the World by Steve Almond As I was reading this book, I asked myself: Why do I read? The answers I came up with are: (1) to become informed or better informed on a topic (2) escape to another world (3) solving a mystery and (4) coming back to a writer whose books I have enjoyed in the past. I think this book by. Mr. Almond fits 1-3. Not #4 since this is the first of his books I have read. This is quite remarkable especially because of after the first 50 pages or so I almost qui All the Secrets of the World by Steve Almond As I was reading this book, I asked myself: Why do I read? The answers I came up with are: (1) to become informed or better informed on a topic (2) escape to another world (3) solving a mystery and (4) coming back to a writer whose books I have enjoyed in the past. I think this book by. Mr. Almond fits 1-3. Not #4 since this is the first of his books I have read. This is quite remarkable especially because of after the first 50 pages or so I almost quite reading! Why? I was very uncomfortable with the story at that point of a brown 8th grade girl who has fantasies about a wealthy father of a girl in her class. But I continued and this young girl – Lorena ends up getting through this issue as well as in many ways overcoming her background and insecurities for the most part. I was very impressed that Mr. Almond, a white middle-aged male ability to believe I am reading and learning about this 13 yr. old girl from a disadvantaged family struggling with all the uncertainties of growing up. Bravo! I will not give away the story but it was moving and still ended without turning into, “and everyone lived happily ever after.” I have looked on Mr. Almond’s website and see he has a distinguished career as a writer and a teacher. This book is a wonderful addition to he resume.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    3.8. This was the first book I've read by this author and was pleasantly surprised. The author did a great job with drawing you in and kept me on my toes with the plot twists. Someone said if you liked breaking bad you would like this read. I agree with that. I looked up the authors other books after reading this one. Recommend 3.8. This was the first book I've read by this author and was pleasantly surprised. The author did a great job with drawing you in and kept me on my toes with the plot twists. Someone said if you liked breaking bad you would like this read. I agree with that. I looked up the authors other books after reading this one. Recommend

  8. 5 out of 5

    AndiReads

    A complex and intricate satirical novel that sheds light on the Reagan years and what they lead to. It's the early 80's and 13 year old Lorena, a child of undocumented parents is paired with an affluent and popular girl for the science fair project. Jenny Stallworth's father happens to be a somewhat famous scientist focusing on the study of scorpions. Scorpions and the dangerous desert landscape provide much of the metaphors to this novel of cultural commentary. Jenny is hoping to work on an astr A complex and intricate satirical novel that sheds light on the Reagan years and what they lead to. It's the early 80's and 13 year old Lorena, a child of undocumented parents is paired with an affluent and popular girl for the science fair project. Jenny Stallworth's father happens to be a somewhat famous scientist focusing on the study of scorpions. Scorpions and the dangerous desert landscape provide much of the metaphors to this novel of cultural commentary. Jenny is hoping to work on an astrology themed project however and the current First Lady Nancy Reagan is references as an astrology believer. Many, many events transpire and none of them good. This novel is crackling with energy and a true page turner. As advertised, this novel has similarities to the book Little Fires Everywhere with underlying themes of race, law, and politics. I highly recommend this novel to those who enjoy sharp commentary in their novels, this is one of the best of the year!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    A masterful, nervy, complex and confrontational work that flays the white beasts of power, excoriates the American dream, and serves up a ferocious indictment of the Fourth Estate, all while encased inside a brilliant Gobstopper of a book that changes flavor, shape and hue the longer it sits on the tongue, staining us with its unflinching, irresistible honesty. Full review, at the Chicago Review of Books: https://chireviewofbooks.com/2022/05/... A masterful, nervy, complex and confrontational work that flays the white beasts of power, excoriates the American dream, and serves up a ferocious indictment of the Fourth Estate, all while encased inside a brilliant Gobstopper of a book that changes flavor, shape and hue the longer it sits on the tongue, staining us with its unflinching, irresistible honesty. Full review, at the Chicago Review of Books: https://chireviewofbooks.com/2022/05/...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    This book somehow manages to be both a suspenseful thriller and a moving, harrowing, and sometimes funny coming of age story. It's also enviably erudite - early 1980s politics/Reaganism, scorpions, the California desert, the natural world. I had the chance to interview the author for The Millions - forthcoming this spring. This book somehow manages to be both a suspenseful thriller and a moving, harrowing, and sometimes funny coming of age story. It's also enviably erudite - early 1980s politics/Reaganism, scorpions, the California desert, the natural world. I had the chance to interview the author for The Millions - forthcoming this spring.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    You don't have to like "All the Secrets of the World," but you do have to read it. Why? Glad you asked. (You didn't ask? I'm telling you anyway.) First of all, Mr. Almond begins with the premise that the past sucked. That's not the most original idea, plenty of recent historical fiction is rooted in centuries of repression suffered by members of ethnic and sexual minorities, but Mr. Almond explains to the reader, in passages that resemble excerpts from true-crime books, the mindset of those who p You don't have to like "All the Secrets of the World," but you do have to read it. Why? Glad you asked. (You didn't ask? I'm telling you anyway.) First of all, Mr. Almond begins with the premise that the past sucked. That's not the most original idea, plenty of recent historical fiction is rooted in centuries of repression suffered by members of ethnic and sexual minorities, but Mr. Almond explains to the reader, in passages that resemble excerpts from true-crime books, the mindset of those who perpetrated those injustices and exactly how wonderful they considered themselves to be . . up to and including First Lady Nancy Reagan, who's an important supporting character in "All the Secrets of the World." No, she's not a sympathetic figure, but she's as close to fully dimensional as a sentient mannequin can be. By setting "All the Secrets of the World" in the nadir that was 1981, Mr. Almond lets us comfort ourselves with the thought that things have improved since then, even citing specific examples of improved technologies that would have been helpful. Are we fooling ourselves? Probably. Can we survive without fooling ourselves in one way or another? Probably not. Second of all, Mr. Almond has written a pretty good police procedural. Okay, he indulges in a few tropes, like the plucky teenage girl and the rogue cop. But he does not sentimentalize or romanticize these stock characters, preferring instead to crush them under the machinery of the criminal justice system. And best of all, there are no unreliable narrators or charismatic villains, just a lot of very stupid people. The evangelical FBI interrogator in "All the Secrets of the World" is more real, and more scary, than any of the charming sociopaths oiling their way through the stories of Gillian Flynn or Rachel Hawkins. And finally . . . you just need to hang out with Lorena. She might be the most real teenager I've ever encountered in fiction. A lot of the time she could have stepped out of a YA novel - smart, sensible, slightly irrelevant, and determined to make everything right - but the rest of the time she's succumbing to deranged, self-destructive impulses which land her in deep poor, and unlike her ditzy rich white friend Jenny, Lorena is dirt-poor and has no shock absorbers to shield her from lousy decisions. But don't feel sorry for Lorena, she's not a victim from some novel of social concern, she's got the guts and brains to overcome her circumstances. Will she? You're going to have to find out for yourself.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Donna DuLong

    So many wrongs do not make a right. Disturbing on many levels, but a believable story. I couldn’t put the book down and read within 24 hours. Would recommend for anyone looking for a brief escape.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I rarely read novels, but ATSOTW was a reminder of why I enjoy them. Cinematic and quick-paced, fantastical but grounded in the harsh realities of class, race, age, and gender, Almond reveals the intricacies of 1981 society while spinning a tale that had me using a bookmark maybe five or six times. I devoured this book. I hope this becomes a series for the small screen; my teenage daughter and I would both feast on it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Brad Wojak

    An incredible first novel, from one of my favourite writers. Brilliant and engaging.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jantine

    It took me a little while to get into this book because I was reading something else first, but when I really started reading I could hardly stop. While reading I wanted to cry, throw things, in short: this book pushed all of my emotion buttons.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tonstant Weader

    All the Secrets of the World is the story of two families drawn into dangerous waters by an unlikely and erratic friendship. When a well-meaning teacher assigned Lorena Saenz, the daughter of a single mom who is undocumented, to work with Jenny Stallworth, the daughter of a socialite realtor and a university professor) on a science project, she probably congratulated herself when they became friends. Jenny, of course, held the power in the relationship, they were friends when Jenny invited her o All the Secrets of the World is the story of two families drawn into dangerous waters by an unlikely and erratic friendship. When a well-meaning teacher assigned Lorena Saenz, the daughter of a single mom who is undocumented, to work with Jenny Stallworth, the daughter of a socialite realtor and a university professor) on a science project, she probably congratulated herself when they became friends. Jenny, of course, held the power in the relationship, they were friends when Jenny invited her over. Jenny’s mother was as warm and welcoming as Lady Bountiful and probably for the same reason. Jenny’s father, though, talked to Lorena as an adult, respecting her intelligence. This made him seem irresistible. She was drawn to him and he was drawn to her. All the Secrets of the World is made up of five books and they are very different. The first is told from Lorena’s viewpoint. It was, for me, the most compelling part of the book even though presenting Lorena as a Lolita rings false to me. It absolves Jenny’s father of his predatory behavior. Lorena is too innocent to see how he is seducing her and blames herself when it all blows up in a confrontation between her brother and Jenny’s father. Later, when Mr. Stallworth disappears, that altercation looms large. We see this through the eyes of the Latino investigator who is dependent on the approval of a racist white detective he is working under. As the story progresses, it shifts from showing to telling and its themes explore racism, police corruption and incompetence, and even religious cults. And the more it tells, the less interesting I found it. I read Book 1 of All the Secrets of the World straight through, captivated by Lorena’s story though repulsed by Mr. Stallworth and distrustful of a narrative that put too much agency on her and too little on him. It reminds me of “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” the victim-blaming song from The Police. As the book progressed, though, I found myself putting it down more often. I think it has important things to say and it was well worth my perseverance. Steve Almond had a point to make and he pounded it in rather than letting it slide in by itself. Almond places it in the Reagan 80s, which probably makes its lessons more palatable to all who read it, but if we think we have progressed since then, we are fooling ourselves. I received an e-galley of All the Secrets of the World from the publisher through NetGalley All the Secrets of the World at Crooked Media Reads | Zando Steve Almond https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpre...

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bob Schueler

    In All the Secrets of the World, all of Steve Almond's many gifts as a writer and humanist are on full display. He uses the story of what happens to a fractured immigrant family's encounter with a splintering wealthy established US family to explore a variety of issues in all of our lives. He sets the story during the Reagan presidency because so many of the social and political issues that haunt us today took flower at that time. As we've come to expect from Almond, his portrayal of these issue In All the Secrets of the World, all of Steve Almond's many gifts as a writer and humanist are on full display. He uses the story of what happens to a fractured immigrant family's encounter with a splintering wealthy established US family to explore a variety of issues in all of our lives. He sets the story during the Reagan presidency because so many of the social and political issues that haunt us today took flower at that time. As we've come to expect from Almond, his portrayal of these issues and the many and diverse (and beautifully drawn) characters who struggle through them is nuanced and, without exception, sympathetic. I especially appreciated the artful way Almond reveals the essential ugliness of the Reagan presidency's vilification and dismissal of poor people and people of color by ramping up fear of a dubious crime wave and the way political pressures effect people at every level to create a system of cruelty and oppression that persists to this day. His use of Nancy Reagan as a character is inspired in its insidious evil, providing us with comic relief that feels like a guilty pleasure. And the writing is uniformly clear, precise, and in many many places absolutely gorgeous, from the descriptions of the desert landscape and its creatures to the philosophy-infused closing passages. The experience of being in the grip of a master of his craft for the length of the novel is a revelation, and leads one to ask "What the hell took you so long?" and "When can we see the next one?"

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Shanahan

    This was very a interesting book. I have not read anything by Steve Almond yet and I definitely enjoyed this book and wanted to see what happened at the end ASAP! It is kind of an odd story and the ending was a little disappointing to me I guess, as I thought the main character would end up doing more as she got older. Regardless, Lorena is a 13 yr old Honduran student in 1980's Sacramento attending a mostly white school. In science class she gets intentionally (by her teacher) paired with Jenny This was very a interesting book. I have not read anything by Steve Almond yet and I definitely enjoyed this book and wanted to see what happened at the end ASAP! It is kind of an odd story and the ending was a little disappointing to me I guess, as I thought the main character would end up doing more as she got older. Regardless, Lorena is a 13 yr old Honduran student in 1980's Sacramento attending a mostly white school. In science class she gets intentionally (by her teacher) paired with Jenny Stallworth who is wealthy, popular and comes from an upper class family as it appears. They become friends and Jenny's family takes Lorena in because her mom (an undocumented immigrant) works around the clock and her brother is supposedly in the Navy. Lorena has several encounters with Jenny's dad Marcus, who she seems to have a rush on and he her as well, but they never actually act on it or do anything although their interactions are very intense and somewhat disturbing. The current political environment with Ronald Regan as president figures prominently in the story with his crackdown on crime and deportation of illegal immigrants. So many events happen as the story progresses that I do not want to spoil anything for readers. The writing is wonderful and the book is shows the effects of these issues on families and how they are sadly torn apart because of them. Somewhat epic as it occurs over a period of time between families with different backgrounds. Do not miss this one!! Thanks to NG for the ARC!!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    In 1981, the science teacher has Lorena and Jenny are paired for the science fair hoping to pair two girls from different worlds. They do become friends. They go camping with Marcus, Jenny’s father and brother. Marcus introduces Lorena to scorpions. She is fascinated by the neon-like colors of scorpions. However one day Jenny wants to go to Lorena’s home. It’s an apartment that is not the best part of Sacramento. Jenny can’t believe that Lorena has not taken advantage since her mom usually works In 1981, the science teacher has Lorena and Jenny are paired for the science fair hoping to pair two girls from different worlds. They do become friends. They go camping with Marcus, Jenny’s father and brother. Marcus introduces Lorena to scorpions. She is fascinated by the neon-like colors of scorpions. However one day Jenny wants to go to Lorena’s home. It’s an apartment that is not the best part of Sacramento. Jenny can’t believe that Lorena has not taken advantage since her mom usually works two shifts. She calls a boyfriend to come over which makes Lorena uncomfortable. After that, they go their separate ways. When Lorena’s troubled brother, Tony picks up Lorena at Jenny’s home, Tony and Marcus has tense words which drawn them into Lorena’s family Into the criminal Justice system of America. Lorena wants the truth so she goes on a dangerous journey into the desert and through the gate of a Mexican religious cult. She discovers shocking secrets. What are they? It’s a story that I didn’t expect. It is a true page turner. It is a coming-of-age story, procedural police, racial discrimination, and lust. With an emphasis of being barely legal. As much as I liked it, I was surprise of what was included in the novel. It’s a book I won’t forget. Disclaimer: I received an arc of this book from the author/publisher from Netgalley. I wasn’t obligated to write a favorable review or any review at all. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    I've been a long-time, big-time fan of Steve's writing, from the non-fiction Candy Freak and Against Football to the short stories in My Life in Heavy Metal to the essays he digs into about politics and culture clashes in Bad Stories and the WBUR website. (I'm also friends with him, which is how I came to read All the Secrets of the World in advance.) Fans already know that in much of his writing, Steve is drawn to exploring the human desire for connection and all the ways that plays out. He's al I've been a long-time, big-time fan of Steve's writing, from the non-fiction Candy Freak and Against Football to the short stories in My Life in Heavy Metal to the essays he digs into about politics and culture clashes in Bad Stories and the WBUR website. (I'm also friends with him, which is how I came to read All the Secrets of the World in advance.) Fans already know that in much of his writing, Steve is drawn to exploring the human desire for connection and all the ways that plays out. He's also drawn to the bigger cultural and political forces in play that get in the way of not just connection but honesty, generosity, and grace as well. In "All the Secrets of the World," I got lost in the pictures Steve paints in a range of worlds, from suburbia to the desert. The book moves not just from one person's story to another's but from one kind of narrative to another. I was entertained and engaged. I was struck as always by the graceful phrase-making of Steve's writing. And most of all, I was taken by his overall humanity towards his characters and the circumstances they inhabit.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sherrie

    Phew that was a wild ride! Thanks to NetGalley and Dreamscape Media for the pre-release copy of the audiobook. What seemingly starts as a story about two middle school girls in the mid-1980’s from different “sides of the track” forming a friendship centered around a science fair, turns into a crazy ride with two families caught up in a whole lot of trauma. The book moves between California and Mexico, with themes of immigration, police corruption, politics, classism, racism, astrology, science, Phew that was a wild ride! Thanks to NetGalley and Dreamscape Media for the pre-release copy of the audiobook. What seemingly starts as a story about two middle school girls in the mid-1980’s from different “sides of the track” forming a friendship centered around a science fair, turns into a crazy ride with two families caught up in a whole lot of trauma. The book moves between California and Mexico, with themes of immigration, police corruption, politics, classism, racism, astrology, science, religion, domestic abuse, suicide, and even pedophilia. There are plenty of trigger warnings here, but the story moves along and keeps you guessing. There is also plenty here to make you really angry about the state of things in our country during the Reagan era, and knowing not much has changed now is even more frustrating. The audio was excellent. The narrator Roxanne Hernandez was so good at voicing all of these characters and keeping the correct accents. It was easy to keep track of all the characters because she did such a great performance.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alastair Moock

    A fantastic, far-ranging social novel that manages to be both page-turning and deeply insightful at the same time. Up close, it's an urgent thriller about a smart girl, several men fighting their demons, and some scorpions. At a distance, it's a penetrating critique of Reagan-era social forces which planted the seeds for the Trumpian hellscape we've come to accept as modern America. If you've read "Bad Stories," "Against Football," or any contributing magazine piece Steve Almond has written in t A fantastic, far-ranging social novel that manages to be both page-turning and deeply insightful at the same time. Up close, it's an urgent thriller about a smart girl, several men fighting their demons, and some scorpions. At a distance, it's a penetrating critique of Reagan-era social forces which planted the seeds for the Trumpian hellscape we've come to accept as modern America. If you've read "Bad Stories," "Against Football," or any contributing magazine piece Steve Almond has written in the past decade, you won't be surprised to find a fluid and empathetic voice at work here. You might well be surprised, though, to discover just how well this first-time novelist manages to pull together the narrative threads of a complex, multi-charactered, long-form work of fiction. One imagines there've been some pretty good books left in drawers along the way. Read this one, it was worth waiting for.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Art

    For those of you who may be new to Steve Almond, you need to check out his nonfiction works including Candyfreak, Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life, Against Football, and Bad Stories. Although this is being promoted as his first novel, he did co-write Which Brings Me to You with Julianna Baggott which was a pretty good read. I’ve had the opportunity to meet and speak with Mr. Almond at the bookstore I worked at and other readings. He is an intelligent and passionate writer who seems very down to For those of you who may be new to Steve Almond, you need to check out his nonfiction works including Candyfreak, Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life, Against Football, and Bad Stories. Although this is being promoted as his first novel, he did co-write Which Brings Me to You with Julianna Baggott which was a pretty good read. I’ve had the opportunity to meet and speak with Mr. Almond at the bookstore I worked at and other readings. He is an intelligent and passionate writer who seems very down to earth. Secrets was an ambitious undertaking, and at times, I thought he was taking on too much. However, I thought he pulled everything together in a satisfactory manner. The beginning part of the story involving Lorena and Mr. Stallworth was somewhat of a surprise and cringe worthy as well. But, the development of their characters and respective histories made their relationship more understandable.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Clay Martin

    All the Secrets of the World takes the reader on a whirlwind journey through the complex minefield of lust, justice, privilege and Nancy Reagan. When you think you have it figured out, it will confound and defy expectations in the best sort of way. Ultimately, it becomes an exploration of Fitzgerald's terrain of careless people and the wreckage they sometimes leave in their wake. This is a novel of substance by a gifted writer at the height of his powers. It starts as a coming-of-age story that All the Secrets of the World takes the reader on a whirlwind journey through the complex minefield of lust, justice, privilege and Nancy Reagan. When you think you have it figured out, it will confound and defy expectations in the best sort of way. Ultimately, it becomes an exploration of Fitzgerald's terrain of careless people and the wreckage they sometimes leave in their wake. This is a novel of substance by a gifted writer at the height of his powers. It starts as a coming-of-age story that morphs into gripping detective fiction that reveals the deadly consequences of the flaws in our criminal justice system. It navigates the terrain of the big issues of religion, privilege, desire and family while never coming across as didactic or pandering. It’s ultimately a gripping tale of human frailty, betrayal and unintended consequences. I strongly recommend it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Thank you to Netgalley, the author, and Dreamscape Media for an advance audio copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. In the hands of a less skilled writer, this book would have been doing too much. Scorpions, astrology, pedophilia, Nancy Reagan, immigration, police corruption, science -- somehow Almond fits all this together into a compelling and well-written story that is as page-turning as it is thought-provoking. The book is both character-driven and plot-driven, and it all comes Thank you to Netgalley, the author, and Dreamscape Media for an advance audio copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. In the hands of a less skilled writer, this book would have been doing too much. Scorpions, astrology, pedophilia, Nancy Reagan, immigration, police corruption, science -- somehow Almond fits all this together into a compelling and well-written story that is as page-turning as it is thought-provoking. The book is both character-driven and plot-driven, and it all comes together as an interesting social commentary set during Reagan's presidency. I listened to the audio, and the narrator did a fantastic job of distinguishing between the many varied characters. My only problems with the book were that it dragged a bit with the police work, and I was grossed out by the way one particular attraction between characters was portrayed.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Deedra Lapray

    I'm not surprised to find out that Steve Almond is mostly known for his political non-fiction. In fact, this is his first novel. I was astonished by his writing style. It seems like everything I have read lately has been a little dumbed down, but then, look at the world we are living in now. However, this book evolved as the novel unfolded. The first part of the book is mainly about Lorena and Jenny - two teenage girls who have been partnered for a science fair project. Lorena, Lo, is from a poo I'm not surprised to find out that Steve Almond is mostly known for his political non-fiction. In fact, this is his first novel. I was astonished by his writing style. It seems like everything I have read lately has been a little dumbed down, but then, look at the world we are living in now. However, this book evolved as the novel unfolded. The first part of the book is mainly about Lorena and Jenny - two teenage girls who have been partnered for a science fair project. Lorena, Lo, is from a poor family with no father and a non-documented mother and brother. Jenny is from a wealthy family and is seemingly the exact opposite of Lorena. When I first began this book, I thought that it could perhaps be YA, but oh, no! The book quickly becomes extremely adult and covertly political. I loved it!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    "The scorpion hunts while the rest of us dream. That's why he knows all the secrets of the world." I'm a huge fan of Steve Almond's work. In this, his first novel, Almond hooked me with extraordinary imagery and details -- glow-in-the-dark scorpions, Nancy Reagan and her personal astrologer, Mormon clans in Northern Mexico, family secrets. This novel is ambitious in scope, woven from so many different threads: class disparities, immigration, police corruption, racism, and the foundation of today' "The scorpion hunts while the rest of us dream. That's why he knows all the secrets of the world." I'm a huge fan of Steve Almond's work. In this, his first novel, Almond hooked me with extraordinary imagery and details -- glow-in-the-dark scorpions, Nancy Reagan and her personal astrologer, Mormon clans in Northern Mexico, family secrets. This novel is ambitious in scope, woven from so many different threads: class disparities, immigration, police corruption, racism, and the foundation of today's Republican Party. It's a LOT. But Almond pulls it off. If you like sweeping social novels with a side of thriller, this will keep you turning the pages late into the night. [Thanks to Zando Projects and NetGalley for an opportunity to read an advanced reader copy of this book.]

  28. 4 out of 5

    Eydie sanders

    I found this book to be very interesting. It highlights the inequality of the treatment of people, depending on their color, financial status, and citizenship status. There are two sets of rules, one for the rich and one for the poor. This book dealt with many things, the horrible decisions teenagers can make, corruption of the police and how an honest cop can get swallowed up, predators who prey on young girls, and more. How the system fails the poor and manipulates them, the futility of thinki I found this book to be very interesting. It highlights the inequality of the treatment of people, depending on their color, financial status, and citizenship status. There are two sets of rules, one for the rich and one for the poor. This book dealt with many things, the horrible decisions teenagers can make, corruption of the police and how an honest cop can get swallowed up, predators who prey on young girls, and more. How the system fails the poor and manipulates them, the futility of thinking you can just appeal to a corrupt person's sense of right and wrong-they don't possess that sense. And more than you ever thought you need to know about scorpions. I really didn't care for the ending. I found it very sad, and sadly, very realistic.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Im

    At first, I didn’t think I was going to like this book because it started off feeling like a dark YA book, and YA shoes me as a genre. But I kept going because I wanted to see why the fan ratings were so high, and because I wanted to see the of this White family with all their oblivious privilege would come to a point of illumination or would be brought to terms somehow. I wanted satisfaction, and instead I got angrier and angrier. The racism is real. The selfishness and stubborn denial of human At first, I didn’t think I was going to like this book because it started off feeling like a dark YA book, and YA shoes me as a genre. But I kept going because I wanted to see why the fan ratings were so high, and because I wanted to see the of this White family with all their oblivious privilege would come to a point of illumination or would be brought to terms somehow. I wanted satisfaction, and instead I got angrier and angrier. The racism is real. The selfishness and stubborn denial of human greed and fear is real. Choosing to ignore truth and fitting it into a convenience is real. Teenage idiocy is real. White privilege is real. The system is real. The circle of life is real. And this story, as unlikely as it feels, could be real.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Patricia Lane

    I'm a big Steve Almond fan from his non-fiction work and workshops and conference sessions at Grub Street so I was very excited when this novel was announced. When I read the plot description (mystery with social commentary set in the 1980s) I wasn't sure I would like it but then I saw him read (virtually) during his book launch and, like always, was hooked by his amazing prose. And the plot and characters lured me in until I was reading way too late at night and dreaming about scorpions and the I'm a big Steve Almond fan from his non-fiction work and workshops and conference sessions at Grub Street so I was very excited when this novel was announced. When I read the plot description (mystery with social commentary set in the 1980s) I wasn't sure I would like it but then I saw him read (virtually) during his book launch and, like always, was hooked by his amazing prose. And the plot and characters lured me in until I was reading way too late at night and dreaming about scorpions and the weird place that is the Salton Sea and secrets and sex and running away and... all of it! This is a fast-paced read that makes you think (and teaches you things about scorpions that maybe you didn't want to know but now you do...!). Highly recommend it!

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