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Sunday, September 23, 2018

REVIEW: Words We Don't Say by K.J. Reilly

Words We Don't Say
by K.J. Relly

Thanks so much to Disney - Hyperion for this copy!  A unique look into a teenager's head who writes text messages to talk to people he can't in person, but never sends them.

Publisher:  Disney - Hyperion
Publish Date:  October 2, 2018
288 pages
Genres: YA, Contemporary

Ever since the thing that happened, there are certain people he hasn't been able to talk to in person. Sure, he shows up at school, does his mandatory volunteer hours at the soup kitchen, and spends pretty much every moment thinking about Eli, the most amazing girl in the world. But that doesn't mean he's keeping it together, or even that he has any friends.

So instead of hanging out with people in real life, he drafts text messages. But he never presses send.

As dismal as sophomore year was for Joel, he doesn't see how junior year will be any better. For starters, Eli doesn't know how he feels about her, his best friend Andy's gone, and he basically bombed the SATs. But as Joel spends more time at the soup kitchen with Eli and Benj, the new kid whose mouth seems to be unconnected to his brain, he forms bonds with the people they serve there-including a veteran they call Rooster-and begins to understand that the world is bigger than his own pain.

My Review:

This book begins in the middle of a shift at a soup kitchen.  We are introduced to Joel and his many, MANY rambling thoughts and we are never taken out of his head space.  Ever since "the thing that happened", he's been unable to talk to certain people.  Instead, he drafts text messages to them and never sends them. (I actually tried and can't do this on my phone!)

I'll be honest, I am not the reader for this book. I like the unique premise and the unique writing style but at the end of the day, it inhibited me from fully appreciating what this book was trying to do.  The author hits on a variety of deep topics - veterans, PTSD, religion, discrimination, etc.  However, it all became too much throughout the read.  I understand that the writing is coming from Joel's head and with that, how the inner workings of a teenage boy trying to deal with tough subject would react.  I just didn't care for it.  Even in the "funnier" scenes where there's supposed to be some levity, it just didn't work.  

I did like the friendships between the characters.  Benji, Eli, Joel - Joel's relationship with his parents and younger brother.  All of these were fantastic.  We've all written a text and never sent it.  We all have things we want to say to certain people but never say them.  We all have had that friend we didn't particularly care for at the beginning but somehow became a close or best friend.  And we have all not agreed with a friend's belief but there's still that bond and love between us regardless of our opposing views.

The first 45 pages seemed to go nowhere and then we finally get introduced to something that makes it more interesting.  However, it did drag throughout to get the point at the end and the thing that happened and what is actually going on... kind of.  Weirdly I found myself the most irritated with the talking of Burning Man between Benji and Joel - it's not the way people mostly depict it... HOWEVER, I love the mention of the temple - which is a true thing and a place people go to find closure and serenity and for that, I love the author.

When it comes down to it, this is just a reader/book mismatch.  I appreciate the theme and uniqueness of the book itself but the execution wasn't for my taste.  I never connected with the characters or the storyline.   A good read for teenagers/YA lovers who love the deeper inner monologues dealing with heavy, socially relevant issues.


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