Another day, another Rockstar Book Tours blog tour post!!! And guys, this one is freaking phenomenal! I know, I know, I always say that. First, Rockstar Book Tours does some pretty fantastic book tours. So, I can’t help that I’m always raving. But I LOVE LOVE LOVED this book! And I really think you will too!
“Mr. Monty called it a form of compounding, said it was a good thing, but later on Benj called it sequential worsening. I figured that Benj was right; things just started to get worse and worse once you made one mistake.”
Joel Higgins writes texts messages that he never intends on sending. Instead he saves them as drafts. Which is just as good, because one of the people he writes to is his best friend Andy, who isn’t here anymore, and to the girl he loves Eli, who doesn’t know he loves her, and to Principal Redman, who probably wouldn’t appreciate all the texts anyway.
Joel can’t imagine that Junior year will be any better, given all the reasons he drafts texts instead of sending them. Oh, and he bombed the SAT’s. But through an English teacher who refuses to stop pushing boundaries, a new kid determined to become his friend so they can go to Burning Man, and a vet nicknamed Rooster who visits the soup kitchen Joel volunteers at, Joel begins to understand that life moves on and the world is bigger than his own grief and pain.
“All around his eyes and mouth was fear. Raw and bleeding like an open wound and about as sad a thing as I’ve ever seen in my whole life. I mean, right there in front of me I saw a kind of hurt that can’t be fixed.”
Throughout this entire novel, we are very much in Joel’s head. We hear his inner dialogue, read the text messages he never sends. We are in this journey with Joel entirely and completely. There is something incredible about how the writing pulls you in. It’s not traditional, with long sentences that bring to life the thought trains we all go on. In that way, there is a very modern ‘Catcher In The Rye’ vibe to the narration.
Being drawn into Joel’s inner dialogue like this makes this book absolutely stunning. It’s raw and vivid and incredibly heartbreaking. As Joel comes to terms with his past, and we as readers learn the truth of the past, this funny and endearing novel simply rips your heart in two in all of the best ways. This is a novel about loss and coming to terms with not just who you are, but how you want to be. How to heal from trauma. How to forgive and most importantly, how to move forward when you have no idea where to start.
“You’d think seeing what I saw at Hendricks Street on Wednesday nights would make me thing being short was a problem I could work around, but you’d be wrong.”
I want to take a moment and talk about the adults in this novel. They are fantastic. Parents and teachers and even guidance counselors are often portrayed in extremes in YA novels. As either supportive and amazing, or as incredibly awful. I loved every single adult in this book. They all came across as adults I knew as a teen, and as adults I know now. Teachers who are terrifying with their rules, but also stay with you because of how incredible the actual messages they teach you are. Guidance counselors who have your best interest at heart, with no actual way of knowing if they’re reaching you. And the parents. Man, I love Jackson and Jesus, Mary so freaking much!
And Mr. Morgan. Every single scene in that English class hit me in the heart. I had several teachers like Mr. Morgan. Teachers who were terrifying but also taught me some of the most important lessons about life. Teachers that stay with you long into adulthood. He challenges his class and for Joel, these lessons are more than simply reading stories and learning vocabulary words.
This is one of the most amazing things about this story. How incredibly real the entire thing is portrayed. Reilly manages to fully capture how uncomfortable a teenager would be sitting in these classrooms. More than that, she vividly renders how his thoughts are jumbled and scattered and thinking about anything and everything, some of it entirely inappropriate given the context. It made me flash back to my own High School days, sitting through discussions that are painful and awkward while your brain spews off in a thousand directions of its own. And yet, the most important and life-changing aspects somehow plant the seeds deep in your brain anyway.
“I was thinking about what Mr. Morgan told us about high schools and colleges where there are safe spaces to protect students from the violence of words and I was thinking that there were no safe spaces to protect kids like Jessie from the violence of life if they don’t have a family.”
Everything about this novel felt stunningly real to me. Joel felt real to me. From the way he responded both in his head and out loud, often the latter being much more polite than the former. To the unsent text messages, the way he viewed the world, how he rationalized and problem solved. The mistakes he made, the choices he made. Everything. Joel made me laugh, and he made me cry. All I really wanted to do throughout the entire thing is give this kid a giant hug.
The thing about this novel is that even though this is a classic coming of age story in every sense of the definition, his journey into finding himself isn’t at all traditional. Joel is desperately trying to make sense of a world that no longer makes sense to him. He has his own stuff to work through, and he experiences and sees the harsh reality of the world around him. This harsh glimpse at the way the world works doesn’t make him see that his life is better than theirs, or that life can always get worse. Instead, it makes him fall deeper into the guilt and depression and loneliness he finds himself sinking towards. I think this is something teens can relate to. Even though the world can be so big and so awful, it doesn’t make our own experiences any less traumatic. It’s an important message for kids to hear.
Words We Don’t Say is gorgeous and complex. It’s a book I highly recommend to anyone and everyone. It often is the small things that change the world but those small things can feel incredibly big when they happen to us. There are huge message woven into this story. The reality of homelessness and vets in this country. The depth and enormity of trauma and mental illness. How heavy guilt can weigh us down and guide us to making terrible choices. Friendship. First love. Banned books. Safe spaces. Reilly doesn’t give us answers. She allows the reader, and Joel, to navigate through these topics on our own. To see how Joel reacts and decide how we, in turn, will react. It makes for a satisfying journey.
Thank you Rockstar Book Tours and Disney-Hyperion for sending me my review copy and including me on this tour!
Before you go, please don’t forget to enter for your chance to win a copy. This book is available now, links to all your favorite retailers are below!
Title: WORDS WE DON’T SAY
Author: K.J. Reilly
Pub. Date: October 2, 2018
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Joel Higgins has 901 unsent text messages saved on his phone.
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.
I am the author of the (contemporary social issue) Young Adult book, Words We Don’t Say (Disney Hyperion Oct 2, 2018).
3 winners will win a finished copy of WORDS WE DON’T SAY, US Only.
Want more??? Then don’t forget to visit the rest of the fabulous blogs on this amazing tour! Excerpt, reviews and more chances to win are below!!!
10/8/2018- BookHounds YA– Excerpt
10/9/2018- Utopia State of Mind– Review
10/10/2018- Here’s to Happy Endings– Review
10/11/2018- Abellafairytale– Review
10/12/2018- Do You Dog-ear?– Review
10/15/2018- YA Books Central– Excerpt
10/16/2018- The Pages In-Between– Review
10/17/2018- A Dream Within A Dream– Excerpt
10/18/2018- Book-Keeping– Review
10/19/2018- Beware Of The Reader– Review
10/22/2018- Rainy Day Reviews– Excerpt
10/23/2018- Moonlight Rendezvous– Review
10/24/2018- The Cover Contessa– Review
10/25/2018- Jena Brown Writes– Review
10/26/2018- A Fictional Bookworm– Review
10/29/2018- PopTheButterfly Reads– Review
10/30/2018- Cindy’s Love of Books– Review
10/31/2018- The Desert Bibliophile– Review
11/1/2018- Trendy Simple Life– Review
11/2/2018- Patriotic Bookaholic– Review
11/5/2018- Coffee, Books and Cakes– Review
11/6/2018- Savings in Seconds– Review
11/7/2018- Novel Novice– Excerpt
11/8/2018- For the Love of KidLit– Spotlight
11/9/2018- Two points of interest– Review