Sunday, October 7, 2012

Review: What I Didn't Say by Keary Taylor

What I Didn't Say
by Keary Taylor

Available as: paperback, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 326
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication date: April 30, 2012
Suggested tags: young adult, romance, contemporary

From Goodreads:
"Getting drunk homecoming night your senior year is never a good idea, but Jake Hayes never expected it all to end with a car crash and a t-post embedded in his throat.

His biggest regret about it all? What he never said to Samantha Shay. He's been in love with her for years and never had the guts to tell her. Now it's too late. Because after that night, Jake will never be able to talk again.

When Jake returns to his small island home, population 5,000, he'll have to learn how to deal with being mute. He also finds that his family isn't limited to his six brothers and sisters, that sometimes an entire island is watching out for you. And when he gets the chance to spend more time with Samantha, she'll help him learn that not being able to talk isn’t the worst thing that could ever happen to you. Maybe, if she'll let him, Jake will finally tell her what he didn't say before, even if he can't actually say it.

{ I received an ebook for free from NetGalley. }

What I Didn't Say was a sweet romance set amid some heavy circumstances. Jake has had a crush on Samantha for quite a while, but he's never told her how he feels. He goes to a party one night with some high school friends, where they all get drunk and Jake, fueled with liquid courage, decides to finally confess his love to Samantha. They get in the car and head for her house, but they never make it there. They veer off the road and crash into a t-post. And now Jake, quite literally, will never be able to tell her how he feels.

Jake recovers and returns to school, where he finds out he'll be studying sign language with Samantha. They have a lot of time to "talk," both with sign language and by writing notes back and forth, and Jake starts noticing that Samantha is dealing with something difficult too.

I thought Taylor handled Jake's transition from an average high schooler to suddenly bearing the label "mute" quite well. I have never known anyone who is mute, so I have no knowledge of what life would be like in reality, but Taylor's interpretation of Jake's struggles seemed realistic to me. He has to learn to communicate in alternate ways, as well as deal with people staring at the scar on his throat and treating him differently because he's now "disabled."

I was a little torn on Samantha's character. Without revealing anything, Samantha is indeed dealing with her own serious issues. She does her best to help Jake and be a friend to him, but Jake has moments where the reality of his new life catches up with him or he feels sorry for himself, and he starts acting less than pleasant. Should he act like that? Probably not. But is it understandable? Completely. Yet Samantha lashes out at him and angrily reminds him that his life is not too terrible, despite what's happened. Yes, she's right, and I understand she's dealing with stress herself, but I just did not like the way she responded to him. I felt like, of all people, she would be a little more sensitive to his moods and reactions, since she's facing new and painful losses of her own.

All in all, this was a nice romance between two teenagers facing some very adult issues. Aside from my wavering feelings about Samantha's character and one rather cliché YA romance moment (SPOILER - highlight to read: Jake gets mad at Samantha, goes to a party alone, and starts talking to Samantha's enemy, the class flirt...and of course Samantha walks in the door right at that moment), I enjoyed What I Didn't Say and would read another book by Taylor. Her writing flows nicely, and she gives her characters realistic, relatable voices. She handles difficult situations smoothly and gets you to feel for the characters. You pull for Samantha and Jake to rise above their circumstances and come together, and then your heart swells when they finally do.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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