Joel Higgins has 901 unsent text messages saved on his phone.
Ever since the thing that happened, there are certain people he hasn’t been able to talk to in person. Sure, he shows up at school, does his mandatory volunteer hours at the soup kitchen, and spends pretty much every moment thinking about Eli, the most amazing girl in the world. But that doesn’t mean he’s keeping it together, or even that he has any friends.
So instead of hanging out with people in real life, he drafts text messages. But he never presses send.
As dismal as sophomore year was for Joel, he doesn’t see how junior year will be any better. For starters, Eli doesn’t know how he feels about her, his best friend Andy’s gone, and he basically bombed the SATs. But as Joel spends more time at the soup kitchen with Eli and Benj, the new kid whose mouth seems to be unconnected to his brain, he forms bonds with the people they serve there-including a veteran they call Rooster-and begins to understand that the world is bigger than his own pain.
I received this book from the author for the purpose of this review. All comments and opinions are entirely my own.
He was told that keeping a journal to vent out his feelings would help him get over the “thing” that happened, but why would he do something that “girly”? No, that absolutely IS NOT going to happen. So he sends text messages to people. Only, never sends them. So basically he types out the messages and saves them as “draft” to his phone. So basically, yeah, he keeps a journal.
Words We Don’t Say is packed full of easy laughs and heart wrenching conversations. Joel is a junior in High School dealing with anxiety, depression, and an overwhelming feeling of helplessness when he looks at all the bad that has happened in everyone’s lives, especially while he works in the soup kitchen. Compare that to Eli, his perfect image of a dream girl, who leans on a God he doesn’t believe in and strives to fix every problem to the best of her ability. Even when her efforts don’t seem to effect the total of the world’s problems, she’s never discouraged from doing good; and he wants that.
This book was really hard to put down. One minute I was laughing out loud and another I was almost ready to cry. The way this book is written keeps the book moving at a steady pace and it’s easy to fall for the characters.
I loved the messages this book illustrated too. In my review of I Wish by Elizabeth Langston, I mentioned that I have several close friends and family in the military, which makes me appreciative of any book that honors and respects those who give up so much for our freedom. Well, Words We Don’t Say broke my heart with the awareness it brings to homeless Vets and PTSD. During a conversation with one of the Vets as he describes what it was like coming home from Afghanistan for the first time, time froze and I couldn’t even begin to image myself in his shoes, and even though this was a fictional character, it still happens in real life. The author did a phenomenal job at separating the funny from the serious, but she also blended the two together in a way that didn’t make either stand out of place.
I do need to mention that this is NOT a Christian book even though there is a Christian character. The are profuse amounts of cursing (including “gd” and the f-word more than 10 times) and plenty of sexual comments that may turn some readers away (no sex scenes or actions though). There are also mentions of homosexuals, though no characters.
Overall, this book gets 4 out of 5 stars from me, because of the messages, illustrations, and excellently written story. It would receive a full 5 stars if the cursing hadn’t been as strong as it was.
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