Monday, June 19, 2017

[Review] The Things I Didn't Say by Kylie Fornasier

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Publication (dd/mm/yyyy): 02/05/2017
Publisher: Penguin Australia
Pages: 311
Source: Library
Genre: YA - Contemporary (14+)

Violence | Sexual ContentProfanity

My Rating
Another #LoveOzYA gem <3

My thoughts

Somehow, I knew all along that I would fall in love with this book. An Aussie YA novel about a teen female protagonist with Selective Mutism (SM) and social anxiety struggles to find her ability to speak up? Yes, please! This is the book that I didn't even know that I needed. It was so powerful and raw and inspiring and eye-opening; Fornasier has written an important YA novel that will touch readers and improve their ability to empathise. Social anxiety, and SM, is not something that you can just get over; it's not that easy. This is the first time I've read a story revolving around a girl with SM and I felt like Fornasier really did justice in writing an accurate and sensitive portrayal of it.

The Things I Didn't Say follows seventeen-year-old Piper Rhodes, who has just moved to a new school, Katoomba High, after a high school party where she ended up losing her best friend Cassie (hello name twin!). Piper has Selective Mutism, and it's basically just about her navigating her way through it and trying to LET IT GO. After a rocky start she makes some friends, and maybe even a boyfriend. But how long can she keep them when she can't even say 'Hi'?

As I said, I felt like the portrayal of SM was realistic and authentic. It was extraordinarily frustrating to follow Piper, you can feel the frustration she feels when she wants to say something but the words just fail to pass from her lips. Her condition is so bad that she can't even speak to her family when one of their friends has come over for dinner. She falls in love with a guy but he hasn't even heard her speak, and she worries that he will eventually grow impatient and fall for another girl. I really empathised with Piper and felt so happy for her when she finally did start to break down those walls and talk to people outside of her immediate family and psychologist Dr Hayes.

The Things I Didn't Say is quintessentially, un-apologetically, deliciously Aussie. The sense of place is so well established, it took next to no effort at all to pick this book up and become transported to Blue Mountains surrounds, which is a very famous area in NSW Australia known for its iconic National Park. It was also just in the little things and places that were mentioned in the book that makes it an Aussie book, which I don't mind in the slightest. I'm so proud that I'm picking up more #LoveOzYA titles, and I'm glad that more and more Aussie titles are gaining recognition overseas as well. I'm hoping that this book also makes it across the ocean!

The writing style was beautiful. It was simple yet beautiful. The story also includes dialogue or conversations told in text messages, notes and letters, a plot device which I adore. I also read this over the span of 1-2 days: I devoured it and just could not put it down! Piper's voice was just so... authentic! I would say I suffer mild social anxiety, so I understand and am all too familiar with the debilitating effects of OVERTHINKING and the torturous cycle that can trap you.

I have to say that Piper's family has quickly become one of my all-time favourite literary families. I wish there could be another book just so we could continue to follow ALL THE CHARACTERS, I really did love them all so much. There's Evie(the youngest) and Tilly and Jackson (their brother), and mum and dad. Their home just seemed to be so full of life - a sharp contrast to another book I just finished. They even have Family Fun night!

I think this book may have stood even higher and stronger if there wasn't a love interest, however that is probably strictly personal preference and I understand why it was brought into the story. I understand why West had to be so prevalent in Piper's life. They help each other get through their problems and it really did bring her SM to the spotlight and drive the narrative forward. I liked West. He's a definite book boyfriend, and I would like to think that there are guys out there like him. He has issues of his own, but he has so much patience for Piper and the love and devotion he has reserved for her is just beautiful. The progression of their relationship was beautiful. I love that they slowly become friends and grow to share more and more with each other, though I still think some of the romance-y parts could have been left out. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the idea that a girl with social anxiety and Selective Mutism can have sex with someone she can't speak to.... Please explain.

All in all, this book rocked it! Need I really say more? I didn't mention everything I enjoyed about this book - the rest you'll just to find out for yourself. ;)


First line:

"Now that I'm here, standing at the top of Peace Rock, I'm not exactly sure what to do next.

"I give him a quick glance and a smile, which seems an adequate substitute for 'hi' in most instances. My mistake is looking at him. It's either his eyes or his dimples that make me forget who or where I am. The last thing I need with my hamster wheel of anxiety is to sit next to a boy with dimples. (14)


AUSTRALIA: A&R | Booktopia | Boomerang Books

INTERNATIONAL: Book Depository

I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

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