What I Didn't Say by Keary Taylor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Genre: Young Adult
Rating: 3 Stars
I received a copy of this book courtesy of Keary Taylor via Net Galley for review.
This is the story of Jake, a teenage boy who has everything: a great family, good friends, a spot on the football team, a crush on Sam (who he says he has loved forever). Then one tragic night Jake makes the mistake of his life: drinking with his friends and then going for a ride. The ride ends in tragedy with Jake being injured beyond repair. He loses his vocal chords and, thus, his ability to speak. The story unfolds showing his growth during the process of learning to heal, learning what love really is, and becoming a man. He bonds with Sam and they grow to love each other by learning to overcome his disability and the tragedy that has recently happened in her life.
This book is a rollar coaster of emotions as the two teens come to terms with how they need to change their lives in order to pursue their dreams. I felt an immediate connection to the main character, feeling both saddened by his situation and inspired by his ability to try and see past it; to learn something from it. It made me laugh in spots and then a few pages later made me cry. It's the story of becoming inspired, overcoming adversity and rising above obstacles.
The book starts out strong, with the main even happening right at the beginning. Jake realizes he must deal with his inability to communicate without his voice. His family is very supportive. We feel their pain at Jake's loss and their happiness, at the same time, because they still have Jake around. We see Jake pull away from family and friends. We see him angry and frustrated as he tries to learn sign language and communicates mostly through the written word. He spends much of the book nodding his head, raising his eyebrows, making hand gestures, furrowing his brow. All body gestures we may use every day with our verbalizations of how we feeling. But he does not have the ability to verbalize, so people must learn to read him and understand him by those gestures.
Then there's Sam, the girl Jake has loved for so long. She is brainy and, according to him, doesn't seem to see anything outside of her studies. Little does he know that she has had her own tragedy in her life. She is as broken as Jake is, but for other reasons: she has no family and has to fend for herself. We see her slowly deteriorate and close down. She becomes disheveled and loses a lot of weight. Finally, she confides in Jake that her mom had died the summer before and she has been living on her own, fending for herself with no one to help her. But her secret doesn't last for long when one of her school mates turns her in and her abusive, drunken father comes and takes her away.
It is not long before we see the two teens reunited and profess their love for one another.
I have to say that when I first started the story I did not know the main character was male. The voice just did not strike me that way. And even throughout the story, I thought the voice was more on the feminine side. But perhaps this was showing the sensitive man that Jake really was.
I did note there were quite a few editorial error (spelling, grammatical) that stood out to me, tho they did not take away from the story for me, which is good. I was never bored with the story, in fact, I finished it in less than 24 hours time because it kept me wanting to know what would happen next.
I loved that Taylor included an author's note at the end explaining why the story line was so near and dear to her heart; and why it was so hard for her to write, even though she knew it had to be done. Once I read the note, I felt even more connected to the characters. It caused me to reflect on what it was like being a teenager who had no disabilities to overcome. It made me realize how lucky I was and how lucky I still am to be able to hear, see, talk, smell and taste.
The thing that stands out most for me in this story is the fact that most of us take for granted the ability to say those three little words to our family and friends: I love you. What if you could not say those words? What if the person you loved was never able to hear your voice again? Would you try and overcome this adversity or would it shatter you into pieces?
If you want an action packed story, this is not it. This is a simple story of learning how to love, how to let go, how to grow. I very much enjoyed it and look forward to reading more of Taylor's writing in the future.
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