Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Young Adult Fiction Prejudice & Racism

My Life Before Me

by (author) Norah McClintock

Orca Book Publishers
Initial publish date
Sep 2015
Prejudice & Racism, Mysteries & Detective Stories, Orphans & Foster Homes
Recommended Age
12 to 18
Recommended Grade
8 to 12
Recommended Reading age
12 to 18
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2015
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2015
    List Price
  • Downloadable audio file

    Publish Date
    Sep 2015
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


Cady has always wanted to be a reporter, like her hero Nellie Bly, so after a fire burns down the orphanage she lives in, she’s ready to leave small-town Ontario and make her mark as a newspaperwoman.

A crumbling newspaper clipping leads her to Orrenstown, Indiana, where her investigation into a long-ago murder earns her a hard lesson in race relations. Smart and determined, and more than a little headstrong, Cady pokes a stick into a wasp’s nest of lies, dirty politics, corrupt law enforcement and racial tension—and ends up fearing for her life as she closes in on something she’s never cared about before—the truth about her own origins.

Part of the SECRETS—a series of seven linked novels that can be read in any order.

About the author


Norah McClintock est l’auteure de plus de 40 livres, dont ceux des collections Chloe & Levesque, Mike & Riel et Robyn Hunter Mysteries, tous publiés chez Scholastic Canada. Les livres de Norah ont été traduits dans une douzaine de langues. Elle a remporté le prix Arthur Ellis dans la catégorie du meilleur roman policier jeunesse et beaucoup d’autres récompenses. Native de Montréal, Norah a obtenu un baccalauréat en histoire de l’Université McGill. Une mer de chagrin est son premier roman historique. «Il est temps d’utiliser toutes ces connaissances en histoire», a-t-elle dit. Norah vit maintenant à Toronto.


Norah McClintock is the author of Tell and Snitch, both Orca Soundings novels. Norah lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Norah McClintock's profile page


  • Commended, CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens

Editorial Reviews

"Readers will become immersed in different historical periods while reading this work and see how racial tensions permeated events that took place in the 1920s and 1940s. Cady is a realistically drawn character, and teens will find themselves worrying about her and cheering for her as she uncovers the dark truth about several murders that were covered up years earlier...For fans of historical fiction, intrepid female reporters, and uncovering secrets."

School Library Journal

"Brings to light racial inequality and injustice as well as the collective guilt of an entire community. In this novel, questions are answered, such as what happens when police and elected officials are corrupt, how do bystanders live with their decisions of inaction, and at what cost and worth is challenging the status quo. Overall, My Life Before Me is difficult to put down, the writing style is conversational, yet precise, and the main character is a stunning example of young womanhood and a force to be reckoned with."


"Cady is a Holmesian detective and her pleasures are cerebral...The real energy of the story comes from her solving the crime and exposing the corruption of those in power."

Quill & Quire

"A sensitive exploration of the appalling, racially motivated prejudice that inflamed even northern areas in the mid-20th century...[Cady's] plucky demeanor adds plausibility to her determined quest...This entry in the Secrets series embeds a tragic past within an engrossing mystery—masterfully."

Kirkus Reviews

"An excellent, well written novel about life in by-gone days in the Southern U. S. fraught with race related hate crimes and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Highly recommended for Black History Month literature study, race relations investigations and as a springboard into research on civil rights in American history. Also complements women’s issues and equity studies discussions in the classroom and for research assignments. Also highly recommended for recreational reading and literature study groups."

Resource Links

"[A] well-paced historical mystery."

Booklist Onlline

"A very compelling and readable mystery...The reader feels strongly connected to the main character whose determination and self-confidence make her very likeable. Indeed, it is her character’s perseverance against both gender and racial discrimination that makes the story so compelling. Norah McClintock’s ability to weave two types of inequality—both sexism and racism—into the story allows her to provide a fresh take on the civil rights movement in this book."

CM Magazine

"McClintock is the queen of YA crime writing and I’m so impressed with the story she was able to create within the premise of the Secrets series and still accommodate a plot involving murder, mystery, and civil rights...Readers will be impressed by Cady’s strength of character, regardless of the roadblocks constantly placed in her way, and the way she faced adversity with wisdom and poise."

CanLit for Little Canadians blog

Other titles by Norah McClintock

Related lists