What to Say Next

Book review by
Rachel Sarah, Common Sense Media
What to Say Next Book Poster Image
Irresistible story of teens finding unexpected connection.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 7 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Julie Buxbaum has clearly done her research about living on the spectrum, specifically about a teen with Asperger's syndrome. Lots of facts and information, as well as the layer about what it feels like to be so disconnected emotionally. 


Positive Messages

Sometimes you have to take risks and be open if you're going to connect with other human beings. Love is worth the potential pain and fear that comes along with it. Have empathy for those who make mistakes or hurt you. Be open to different kinds of people -- one protagonist is biracial (Indian mother, white father) and the other is on the autism spectrum.


Sweet kissing scenes, no nudity or sex. 


Infrequent swearing by the bullies at school and some swearing by protagonists: "s--thead," "u piece of s--t," "bad s--t happens."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Numerous scenes in which high school teens are drinking, and descriptions of getting sick and feeling hung over. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that What to Say Next is a coming-of-age romance about two high school juniors who make an unexpected connection with unintended consequences. This is a very real, emotional, and romantic story, and there are some mature themes about fidelity and divorce, as well as bullying and social isolation. The main characters explore the challenges of grieving the death of a parent, not fitting in, and forgiving those who have hurt you. This book is a great choice for readers looking for diversity: One of the protagonists is biracial (Indian mother, white father), and the other protagonist is on the autism spectrum.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 11 and 12-year-old Written byShawn F. February 19, 2018

Mature topics

Although I agree that there are some positive messages about diversity, anti-bullying and forgiveness, the themes of adultery, dishonesty, binge drinking and dr... Continue reading
Adult Written bycar0lina July 21, 2019

Perfect for Middle Grades kids

Positive messages abound and sensitive themes are handled without being graphic. Disability as seen from different perspectives of the characters is great.
Teen, 14 years old Written byKattlover814 December 10, 2017

Sad it’s over.

It is an amazing and book with thoughtful concepts and when I finished the book I wanted to keep reading. It had so many exciting parts but also parts that made... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bybookworm_01 June 27, 2020


YESS I really liked this book. I was 12 when I read it but could of at 11.

What's the story?

In WHAT TO SAY NEXT, Kit Lowell is an ambitious and popular high school junior who's still reeling from her father's recent tragic car accident. David Drucker, a boy in her class, is on the autism spectrum and struggles socially at school. They both feel things deeply and hold secrets close.  

After her father dies, Kit feels as if her shallow friends don't understand her grief, so one day at lunch, she decides to sit at David's table. No one else at school has ever done such a thing, and Kit finds David's honesty refreshing. 

Is it any good?

With witty dialogue and true-to-life scenes about a socially awkward boy who struggles to make friends and a popular girl who's grieving her dead father, this novel is so real and surprisingly funny. Told in alternate first-person voices by two teens, What to Say Next also tugs on your heart.

David Drucker's voice is especially visceral: "I've thought about how Kit's hand would feel in mine. I have concluded it would feel the exact opposite of that fold in my new jeans." This novel is gripping and well-developed, and quite a page turner.  


Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how being on the autism spectrum is portrayed in What to Say Next. What does Kit mean when she says that David's honesty feels "good and refreshing" like "air, underwater"?

  • How do the family members in Kit and David's lives affect the way they approach their relationship? Does David's sister make him more open to "love" than Kit's newly widowed grieving mother?

  • Why do you think the author switches point of view between Kit and David? Do both narrators seem realistic to you? Did you like one better than the other? Why?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love romance

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate