TYLER JOHNSON WAS HERE, I couldn't keep myself from wanting to read this book once I heard about the premise. THINGS WE COULDN'T SAY has so many important themes, ranging from discovering one's sexuality to dealing with feelings of parental abandonment. The hero, Gio, is the son of a preacher and a star basketball player. But he's also bisexual and coming to terms with his feelings of his mom walking out years ago. Both those things play major roles in the story, when Gio thinks he might be falling in love for the first time-- and when the ghostly specter of his mother reappears solidly in his life.
THINGS WE COULDN'T SAY shares similar themes with other books I have read and enjoyed recently, specifically Kacen Callender's FELIX EVER AFTER and THIS IS KIND OF AN EPIC LOVE STORY, and Brandy Colbert's THE REVOLUTION OF BIRDIE RANDOLPH, so I think if you really enjoyed this books, you'll probably enjoy this one, as well. One of the things I really like about the YA coming out these days is the emphasis on healthy amounts of communication in relationships and the importance of setting boundaries. A lot of the YA I had access to as a teen glossed over these things, and I think it's really important that teens have examples of positive, healthy relationships in their fiction if they want it!
THINGS WE COULDN'T SAY handles its difficult subjects pretty well and I think it's clear that Jay Coles has grown a lot as an author since his debut. But something about the narrative fell a little short for me. Gio felt young-- and not young in a realistic way, but young as in, like, middle school (and I think he was supposed to be in high school?). With a lot of high school-age books, there's like this yearning to be taken seriously and seeing yourself as an adult, and I didn't really get that with Gio. The primary focus was on the lessons he had to learn about relationships and the like, which kind of made this feel like an afterschool special in some ways. I believe this was published by Scholastic, which is geared at a younger audience than other teen imprints, but it's something to consider when buying this for a teenager. It's definitely geared more towards preteens and young teens than older teens.
Overall, though, I liked this book and look forward to seeing what the author does next.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!
3 out of 5 stars