I think the synopsis does a pretty good job of explaining what happens in the book, so I won’t go into a more detailed account in my review. I featured this book on a WoW a few weeks ago, and when I saw it on Netgalley I snatched it up in less than a second. What I Didn’t Say was kind of an adventure for me, since I haven’t read anything from this author, nor have I ever read a book where one of the characters is mute. I also don’t read many books told solely from the hero’s POV, but I’m always looking to expand that number.
Taylor did a really great job of handling Jake’s loss of speech. I’m sure it’s tough to take such a delicate subject and make it real, and not somehow turn it into a joke or a sob story. It’s also the kind of subject where an author has to walk a very fine line of getting her message across, but not being too preachy about it. After Jake’s accident, he was faced with several ways of how to react to his new way of life. Not only did it affect the now, but everything he wanted to accomplish in the future was changed as well. And it wasn’t just a one time struggle either. Every time he’d get frustrated or feel sorry for himself, he had to choose what kind of person he wanted to be. Did he want to go the depression/drug/alcohol route, or would he learn how to deal with the changes, and make the best of it? Everyone goes through this sort of personal choice when faced with trials and adversity, and I’m glad that the author included that struggle in the book. Taylor did her job for most of the book of just telling the story, and it wasn’t until the end that it started to get preachy. She was wrapping everything up in the conclusion, and it was obvious where her personal opinions were in the matter. And, truthfully, the ending was really great up until that point. The way that Samantha finally told Jake that she loved him was super romantic, and then it kind of spiraled down into the realm of cheesy. Kind of a bummer.
As for Jake and Sam, I liked them. Jake more so than Sam, but I’m sure that’s due to the fact that he was the one telling the story and I didn’t get much out of Sam. Jake’s disability wasn’t the only struggle the couple had to overcome, and Sam’s struggles were sad and awful as well. I feel like the book was more about the situations than the characters though. Which is fine, it just doesn’t make the characters all that memorable. I’ll remember the story, I’ll remember Jake’s disability and Sam’s family situation, but I’ll forget the minute details that make them, them. I did, however, love Jake’s family and the interactions between him and his siblings. It’s always wonderful to read a book where a young adult character comes from a fully functional family. I loved the little town that Jake lived in, and how they banded together when one of their own was in a crisis. Jake’s friends might have been wigged out at first by Jake’s inability to speak, but they stuck by him and the whole island learned how to adapt. It was incredibly sweet and heartfelt how loved Jake was by his classmates and neighbors.
I tend to judge how great a book is by how reluctant I am to put it down. If I’m in the middle of the action and I can get distracted by dishes or folding laundry, it clearly isn’t keeping my attention. Especially since folding laundry is my least favorite chore. If I’m so enthralled that I throw crackers on the floor to keep my toddler entertained so I can keep reading, then it’ll probably become a favorite. What I Didn’t Say fell somewhere in between those extremes. I could tell that Taylor put a lot of thought and effort into the story, and it was personal to her. I wasn’t a fan of the preachy ending, and I had a hard time connecting to Sam. Overall, there was just something missing from the story. It was almost great, but it lacked that little something extra to push it there.