Into the Bright Open: A Secret Garden Remix

From History Book By Book
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Modern Age

Into the Bright Open: A Secret Garden Remix
Author: Dimaline, Cherie
Buy at Amazon |

Time Period: Modern Age
Time Frame: 1900
Geographic Area: North America
Country: Canada
Topics: Metis Nation, Retelling, Indigenous Americans, LGBTQ+
Genre: Fiction
Reading Age: Upper Middle Grade, Young Adult
Format: Novel
Published: 2023

American History > Modern Age > Indigenous American History

In the Remixed Classics series, authors from marginalized backgrounds reinterpret classic works through their own cultural lens to subvert the overwhelming cishet, white, and male canon. This queer YA reimagining of The Secret Garden subverts the cishet and white status quo of the original in a tale of family secrets wonderful and horrifying.

Mary Lennox didn’t think about death until the day it knocked politely on her bedroom door and invited itself in. When a terrible accident leaves her orphaned at fifteen, she is sent to the wilderness of the Georgian Bay to live with an uncle she's never met.

At first the impassive, calculating girl believes this new manor will be just like the one she left in Toronto: cold, isolating, and anything but cheerful, where staff is treated as staff and never like family. But as she slowly allows her heart to open like the first blooms of spring, Mary comes to find that this strange place and its strange people―most of whom are Indigenous―may be what she can finally call home.

Then one night Mary discovers Olive, her cousin who has been hidden away in an attic room for years due to a "nervous condition." The girls become fast friends, and Mary wonders why this big-hearted girl is being kept out of sight and fed medicine that only makes her feel sicker. When Olive's domineering stepmother returns to the manor, it soon becomes clear that something sinister is going on.

With the help of a charming, intoxicatingly vivacious Metis girl named Sophie, Mary begins digging further into family secrets both wonderful and horrifying to figure out how to free Olive. And some of the answers may lie within the walls of a hidden, overgrown and long-forgotten garden the girls stumble upon while wandering the wilds...

Emily's Review

Now don't judge me too harshly, but I have no memory of reading The Secret Garden. I own a copy that I've held onto since childhood, so I must have read it at some point, I just don't remember it.

So I have nothing to base this "remixed" version on - I don't know how well it hits the major beats of the story, or any of that. What I can tell you is that I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Mary Craven's parents have died and she is sent to live with her uncle. She's been neglected her whole life and is therefore a bit unlikeable at the start of the story. She's essentially your typical spoiled rich girl who is forced to move to the country. However, even when she was supposed to be unlikeable you can't help feel a bit sorry for Mary - the author does a great job of making her a sympathetic character.

When she arrives at her new home, the master is away, and she discovers a girl who is locked up in the attic, her cousin who is too sickly to leave her rooms. Then her evil step-aunt Rebecca shows up and the story unfolds. I love having a really terrible villain for our main character to deal with and Rebecca is deliciously awful. I loved the found family aspect of this story too - Mary befriends the Metis "help" that work at the manor and there is even a budding romance between Mary and Sophie that was very sweet.

I will say, I think this could have been a bit more atmospheric and I struggled to figure out a time period - there is very little to go on to place things. But overall, I really enjoyed this story. It's a perfect bridge book for a young teen who isn't quite ready for YA yet but feels to old for most middle-grade! I recommend this one for ages 12+

Other Similar Books

Other suggestions on the subject of the Retelling.