When the book What I Didn't Say opens, Jake is your fairly typical American teenager from a small town, or in this case, small island. He's a football player, dreaming of graduation when he'll join the Air Force, and crushing on a girl whom he can't tell how he feels. Well, he could if he wanted to, he just can't work up the nerve. However, with a few drinks in him, and some encouragement from his equally drunk friends, he finds the courage to go find her to declare his love. His entire future changes in a horrific accident which renders him mute for life. Now, the girl, Samantha befriends him, and their relationship grows, but he no longer has the voice to tell her what's on his heart. Meanwhile, Samantha herself is holding on to secrets that could also change her life if anyone were to find out. Can their relationship withstand the secrets and the silence?
The accident that happened to Jake was shocking and heartbreaking; I can't even imagine having your entire life altered by one stupid mistake, and living with the consequences every single day. With the consequence being the loss of his voice, he can't even scream or rant or complain to anyone. His struggles with accepting his fate felt very true; he realized that he had a choice to make and that it was his choice alone to decide to wallow in his new disability, or to accept it and move on. It wasn't an easy choice, and he didn't make it and move on without ever looking back, but I liked that he was able to look at it and know he was at the fork in the road.
I also enjoyed several of the other characters in the book. I liked that Samantha was smart and working hard to get herself where she wanted to go. Jake's friends stayed loyal even after the accident left him disabled and with ugly scars; again, it was realistic in that it wasn't an easy decision, there were definitely awkward moments, and thoughts of blaming the accident on them, but they were still there, and they kept working on staying friends. Jordan, Jake's sister, was also incredibly loyal, helping him out, having his back, encouraging him. It was very sweet. I loved Jake's whole family, from his mom who could feed the entire island at any given time, yet discouraged his friends from cursing in the house, to all 6 of his siblings who kept his life busy and the house loud.
I give this book 3 stars. I enjoyed the characters, and it was an interesting journey to observe for both Jake and Samantha to figure out their situations and new realities. I liked that, for the most part, characters were able to look beyond themselves and see where others needed help.
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You can find Keary Taylor's website HERE. Her Author's Note at the end of this book gives the reader a glimpse at her own story and how she put her heart into this work.
I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for my honest review.