A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Drew works in the library, so the inner workings of libraries are displayed, a number of books named. Includes author's note about suicide, list of resources to help kids seeking emotional support.
You can make friends when you keep an open mind. A little bit of chocolate always makes people feel better. It's important for everyone to talk about their feelings -- boys included. Do what's right, apologize and be honest.
Positive Role Models
Drew's mom is there for her kids, making sure they have what they need after their father took his life. The librarians at her workplace also look after Drew. Everyone in this book is White. Filipe's family is of Portuguese descent.
Violence & Scariness
Drew's dad has died by suicide, a major topic in the book; it's not clear how he took his life. Drew's anger can be explosive, and he destroys his dad's things. He also wonders why people choose to kill themselves: "Do you wake up one day wanting to kill yourself? Or is it something you think about for a while first? For days, weeks, months. Years?" Drew attacks his friend Fillipe, "whaling" on him with his fists, with adult-imposed consequences for this behavior. Drew apologizes eventually.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Drew wonders if his mom and Phil had a relationship in the past. Drew nearly kisses a girl, but then he pauses, thinking to himself that that may happen in the future.
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Products & Purchases
Snickers, Brown University, Prius, Trader Joe's, Dory Fantasmagory, Paw Sox, Facebook, Google, Rick Riordan books, Gatorade, Star Wars, R2D2, Han Solo, Darth Vader, Ewok, Holes, The Hobbit, Chap Stick, Craigslist, Harley Davidson, Panera, Curtis Sittenfeld, Dali, Picasso, Crash Landing, Sprite, Pac-Man, Six Flags, Dr. Pepper, Del's, Gourmet, Are You My Mother?, MINI Cooper, YouTube, Hogwarts, Band-Aid, Jaws, Twinkies, Red Sox, Third Eye Blind, Pikachu, Spiderman, Lego, Playmobil, Curious George, Airbnb, Rockies, George R.R. Martin, Phish, SNL, Netflix, Midsummer Night's Dream, Hot Wheels, G.I. Joe, Aladdin, Nirvana, The Muppets, Sesame Street.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
As Drew thinks about his father's suicide, he rules out a "drinking problem, like some adults." His grandmother chews cinnamon gum to hide her cigarette breath.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Things You Can't Say is a story told from the point of view of a 12-year-old boy named Drew, whose father died by suicide when he was 9. Drew stepped in as the man of the house after his dad died, helping his mom raise his little brother, Xander, who's six years younger. Drew cooks, cleans, and has been known to give his mom back rubs when she's needed comfort. Though the reader doesn't know how Drew's dad took his life, Drew spends a lot of time thinking about whether his dad was really good at "lying," or if he really knew his dad at all. He feels like people see him as contagious, as if his dad's suicide will rub off on them. Drew's feelings get the better of him at times -- he attacks his friend Filipe, hitting him with his fists while he's on the ground. He wonders if his mom and her friend Phil are having sex when he hears banging in the next room (though he finds out that the sound is coming from something else). There's an author's note about suicide and a list of resources to help kids seeking emotional support.
Is It Any Good?
This is a compelling story of a 12-year-old sorting out his father's suicide while figuring out friends and family history during a summer in Rhode Island. Things You Can't Say explores the sense of anger and betrayal that suicide leaves behind, against a backdrop of kids streaming down the stairs to hear his stories, and a possibly cool girl who's volunteering with Drew at the library. Drew's honest voice digs into painful questions: Was his dad lying to him about loving him? Why did he abandon them? Was he ever really happy? And who is this "old friend" his mom is so interested in, anyway? An old boyfriend? A secret relative?
Kids will enjoy the realistic narrative that Drew runs in his head. There are lots of things he thinks, but not so many that he actually says. And when he does express himself, some of his words and reactions come out sounding rude, which feels right for this age group. What doesn't quite fit is a gap in the family history that seems unlikely (spoiler alert: when and where his parents met). It's a small glitch in an otherwise realistic portrayal. This is a relatable story about surviving a devastating event and how life goes on despite the tragedies people endure.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.