All The Books I Can Read

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Review: The Things I Didn’t Say by Kylie Fornasier

on May 16, 2016

Things I Didn't SayThe Things I Didn’t Say
Kylie Fornasier
Penguin Books AUS
2016, 311p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

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?

The Things I Didn’t Say is Australian YA author Kylie Fornasier’s second book, a contemporary story set in the Blue Mountains of NSW revolving around Piper, a young girl about to begin her final year of school. Piper has Selective Mutism, which means that she cannot speak around, well pretty much everyone who isn’t her family or someone she’s known a long time, that she feels comfortable with. After an incident that cost her her best friend at her former school, Piper has elected to switch to a different school rather than have to face her former friend every day. This choice brings with it a new set of challenges – it’s hard enough to make friends at school as it is. How do you create friendships when you can’t even speak to people?

That’s just one of the challenges Piper faces as she begins her new school. Most of her teachers have been briefed on her situation but there are always those who are substitute teachers and aren’t aware or who perhaps don’t really understand – and that’s a theme that runs through the book. People do seem to have a hard time grasping that Piper isn’t just doing this for attention, or could change it if she really wanted to. I don’t know much about Selective Mutism – actually, scratch that. I don’t know anything about it and wasn’t really familiar with it before I read this book. I don’t know anyone with the condition, so I don’t know if what is portrayed here is accurate or not. I did a little bit of reading around after I finished this, just to try and understand the condition a bit more. I think a lot of people can relate to portions of it, even though it’s much more than just being shy or having a fear of speaking in front of certain people, or a certain number of people.

Piper can speak to her family and before her falling out with her friend, she could speak to her. When she starts her new school, she can’t speak to anyone. She must rely on writing notes or smiles/gestures to communicate how she is feeling or what she wants to say. It doesn’t appear that the students in her year were informed of her condition but Piper does manage to find herself some supportive friends who don’t mind that she doesn’t talk to them.

Piper also meets West – school captain, soccer player, popular student. A ‘Royal’, as Piper calls them, one of that popular group that exists in probably every high school in the world. You’re either one….or you’re very much not. And Piper doesn’t feel at all like she could ever be one of them….however West makes an effort to befriend Piper, pretty much ignoring Piper’s attempts to brush him off lest she incur the wrath of the girl Royals. Piper and West’s friendship is very sweet but it’s not without it’s problems. Although it manages to develop into something deeper, West isn’t immune to the frustration about Piper’s Selective Mutism. He knows she can talk to her family and that generally she can talk to people when her relationship with them reaches a certain point where she feels comfortable. He wonders when that point will be with him….and you can understand how he would be thinking this, given how attached they do become to each other. But for Piper, it’s just a sign to her that West doesn’t get it, that he thinks she can control it.

I think that The Things I Didn’t Say is a very appealing, well written story….the character of Piper is well crafted, it took me right back to what it’s like being at school, especially starting a new one. Piper’s frustrations with her condition as well as people’s inability to understand it are well conveyed and Fornasier does a great job with constructing the romance, despite the fact that Piper never utters a word to West. It still somehow manages to remain believable. I have to admit, the ending was a bit dramatic, which seemed a touch out of place with the rest of the book but it certainly gave Piper a chance to showcase both her dedication and stubbornness and the ways in which she could express herself and her feelings without being able to speak.

I loved it – read it in one sitting. I think that Kylie Fornasier is going to be a very strong voice in Aussie YA and I’m looking forward to her next book already.


Book #112 of 2016


The Things I Didn’t Say is book #26 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016

3 responses to “Review: The Things I Didn’t Say by Kylie Fornasier

  1. BookSwag says:

    This sounds great! I find conditions like Selective Mutism so interesting. It’s cool to see it used in contemporary YA fiction 👍🏻

  2. Deborah says:

    I like the sound of this as well… I don’t read a lot of YA but this sounds good!

  3. […] The Things I Didn’t Say by Kylie Fornasier. Penguin Books AUS. My review. […]

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