||AUTHOR: Keary Taylor
PUBLICATION DATE: April 30, 2012
GENRE: realistic fiction
GIVE IT TO: upper-MS, HS girls who love Lurlene McDaniel
SUMMARY: Jake Hayes learns to move on with his life after losing his vocal chords in an alcohol-related car accident. In love with Samantha Shay for years, Jake never told her how he feels. Now, he hopes it isn’t too late to try.
REVIEW: I have mixed feelings on this one. On one hand, I enjoyed the story enough to read it all in one sitting. While it does have some slow parts (particularly early in the story), I wanted to see how everything worked out for Samantha and Jake. I like the author’s message that the unthinkable can happen at any time, and you must choose between appreciating what you still have and drowning in sorrow. Taylor writes in her Author’s Note that she debated on including her personal experience in the note, and I am really glad she did. It lends an air of authenticity and helps readers who have “been there” connect with the author and the story.
On the other hand, I had difficulty suspending my belief that there is no survivor’s guilt from the friends. Not one of them seems to feel guilty at all for causing their best friend to lose his voice permanently. Even more unbelievable, Jake and his family hold no grudges against the friends for their role in the accident. Jake’s sister even ends up dating one of them! I have personal experience with displaced survivor’s guilt, and while it is not rational, it is a reality when someone you love gets badly hurt. Especially when you were with them when it happened. You constantly ask yourself how you could have done things differently or what your role in it was. In this story, there is no guilt for or animosity toward the driver, whose drunken state caused the car accident in the first place. I just have a hard time with that.
Another issue with believability…(spoiler here–highlight the area below to read) Why could they just not emancipate Samantha when her father shows up? Really, a few weeks before she turns eighteen, and they force her to go live with an abusive drunk she hasn’t seen in twelve years? She’s the valedictorian of her school and has been doing just fine on her own this long; what’s a few more weeks?
I also had trouble with stereotypical characters who were either perfectly nice or abhorrently vengeful. You have a nice, boring boy from a large, boisterous family with a mother who takes care of everyone and “half the kids on the island call her mom.” You have Samantha, the perfect, beautiful, Valedictorian who harbors a big secret. Poor Norah (the Whora) who was so desperate for attention that she turned into the Wicked Witch of the West. Most of the rest of the characters were fluff–no real personality and completely unnecessary to the story.
There were lots of other little problems that bothered me. For example, Jake is forced to drop his Spanish class because he cannot speak. Why should he drop? He can still write and hear. Also, the repetition of the name “Shaw” got irritating. There is Shaw Island, a character with last name Shaw, and Samantha SHAY–are there no other names we could use there? And Jake constantly says that he will “never be able to fly again.” I’m not sure why that would be true. Could he not communicate with a keyboard? Or through another pilot or a passenger? Are there no mute pilots? He can still drive a car; why would he not be able to fly?
I’m not sure if the copy I read on NetGalley was an ARC since it came out months ago, but there were NUMEROUS and OBVIOUS spelling and grammatical errors. I am going to give it the benefit of the doubt and hope that the NetGalley version is just the pre-pub ARC.
THE BOTTOM LINE: There are definitely some problems, but I still enjoyed the story itself. It reminds me of After-School Specials from the 80s–really cheesy and melodramatic, but you still want to know how it ends.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: I have no plans to purchase What I Didn’t Say for my library. It’s not awful, but it isn’t the best of its genre, either.
READALIKES: anything by Lurlene McDaniel
- Overall: 2/5
- Creativity: 2/5
- Characters: 1/5 (stereotypes)
- Engrossing: 3/5 (some slow parts, but mostly I was interested)
- Writing: 2/5 (more telling than showing; unrealistic)
- Appeal to teens: 4/5 (again, Lurlene McDaniel fans)
- Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5 (nice and short)
- Language: none
- Sexuality: medium–talk of intercourse (none occurs); two underwear-only kissing scenes
- Violence: none
- Drugs/Alcohol: mild–two parties with teen drinking; drunk-driving accident; whole school vows not to drink for rest of school year