Things You Can’t Say

S. & S./Aladdin. Mar. 2020. 336p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534440975.
Gr 5-7–Three years after his father’s suicide, 12-year-old Drew continues to find comfort spending his summer volunteering in the children’s room of his local library, where Audrey has begun volunteering. But this summer is different. The things he counted on are beginning to feel a bit more uncertain. His best friend, Filipe, seems to be pulling away. And, most threatening of all, Phil, an old friend of his mother’s, arrives on a motorcycle to stay for “a few days.” When Phil begins helping around the house, including making meals for Drew and his younger brother Xander, Drew wants to know more about Phil—and about his own father. Drew’s first-person narration allows readers to experience his conflicting feelings: missing his father while worrying that he may be like him, and “pretending that everything was perfect—fine—when obviously it wasn’t.” With Audrey’s help, Drew begins learning more about Phil’s own complicated story, which leads him to invent a narrative that makes him more confused and angry. When Drew starts to feel overwhelmed, his mother’s and Audrey’s support allows him to express feelings he has been bottling up as he works to accept new realities.
VERDICT Bishop’s emotional novel may provide a way for readers whose lives have been impacted by suicide to navigate a complex topic and will appeal to those who appreciate tales of trauma and healing.

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