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Reviewed by:
  • Words We Don't Say by K. J. Reilly
  • Karen Coats
Reilly, K. J. Words We Don't Say. Hyperion,
2018 [288p]
ISBN 978-1-368-01633-9 $17.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 7-10

Guilt, grief, and trauma find many modes of expression; for Joel, these include focusing on the grief of others to deflect from his own while writing countless text messages that he never sends. He writes to Eli, highlighting the reasons for his massive crush on her; to his principal, offering confessions and unrealistic solutions for problems that can't be solved; and to his friend Andy, filling him in on the mundane details of his daily life. At his work at a soup kitchen, he tries to communicate with a silent veteran he calls Rooster, then tracks Rooster to his ramshackle dwelling, bringing him socks and food; Rooster returns the favor by giving Joel a gun. The gun fascinates Joel as much as it scares him and eventually becomes one of the catalysts for bringing Joel's grief to a place where he can admit it openly and begin to heal. While the subjects here are heavy, including hunger, homelessness, PTSD, and the deaths of loved ones, Joel's voice has a grim, ironic humor that spins from the serious to the quotidian concerns of a sophomore in high school reeling from the aftermath of personal loss. This loss leads to him feeling the weight for the first time of humanity's grief and committing to mitigate as much of it as he can. With its spirit of ethical social commitment and its exploration of the what-ifs of being left behind after the death of your important person, this will have broad appeal for teen readers. KC



Additional Information

Print ISSN
p. 136
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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