The Things I Didn’t Say – Kylie Fornasier – Penguin Australia – Published 2 May 2016
I hate the label Selective Mutism – as if I choose not to speak, like a child who refuses to eat broccoli. I’ve used up every dandelion wish since I was ten wishing for the power to speak whenever I want to. I’m starting to wonder if there are enough dandelions.
After losing her best friend that night, Piper Rhodes changes schools, determined that her final year will be different. She will be different. Then she meets West: school captain, star soccer player, the boy everyone talks about. Despite her fear of losing everything all over again, Piper falls in love – and West with her – without Piper ever speaking one word to him. But will it last?
I really enjoyed Things I Didn’t Say. It is a beautiful and compelling story about romance, falling in love, social anxiety, best friends, new friends, family, standing up against bullying and looking forward to the future.
It’s funny, from the front cover I assumed this story would be darker, sadder, that some horrible tragedy had befallen the main character. And yet that is exactly what Piper fights against in people’s ideas of her Selective Mutism, which is connected to anxiety rather than a traumatic event. And so this is an uplifting story. It is set in the Blue Mountains, Australia, and of course I loved the familiar landscape and Aussie references.
Piper is starting a new high school after a mistake left her without a best friend. But attending any school isn’t easy due to Piper’s Selective Mutism, where in social or uncomfortable situations Piper is unable to speak. At her new school Piper meets the charming and persistent West, who seems to understand what she is saying even when she remains silent, and a new group of girls who reach out and include her in their group. But of course there are also some bullies to deal with, teachers who don’t understand and a new support group to attend.
I thought the relationship between West and Piper was very sweet. West desperately wants Piper to know she is safe with him, yet can’t seem to help pushing her to talk. I loved all the bird and nature references and I was standing up cheering at how Piper deals with bullies. I also enjoyed the ending, which includes a bit of a dramatic twist and a road trip.
Overall, a charming and positive book with a realist look at social anxiety and the importance of therapy and support, all mixed in with high school tension, romance and friendship.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Social anxiety, mental health, selective mutism, romance, Australia, family, therapy, speech, bullying, friendship, high school, rumours.
Reading age guide: Ages 13 and up.
Advisory: Implied sex scene. Occasional coarse language, sl**, f***, s***.
Published: 2 May 2016 by Penguin Australia.
Format: Paperback, ebook. 311 pages.