Published by HarperCollins Australia on January 1st 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson
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Don't deceive me. Ever. Especially using my blindness. Especially in public.
Don't help me unless I ask. Otherwise you're just getting in my way or bothering me.
Don't be weird. Seriously, other than having my eyes closed all the time, I'm just like you only smarter.
Parker Grant doesn't need 20/20 vision to see right through you. That's why she created the Rules: Don't treat her any differently just because she's blind, and never take advantage. There will be no second chances. Just ask Scott Kilpatrick, the boy who broke her heart.
When Scott suddenly reappears in her life after being gone for years, Parker knows there's only one way to react-shun him so hard it hurts. She has enough on her mind already, like trying out for the track team (that's right, her eyes don't work but her legs still do), doling out tough-love advice to her painfully naive classmates, and giving herself gold stars for every day she hasn't cried since her dad's death three months ago. But avoiding her past quickly proves impossible, and the more Parker learns about what really happened--both with Scott, and her dad--the more she starts to question if things are always as they seem. Maybe, just maybe, some Rules are meant to be broken.
Not If I See You First was an eye-opener when it came to blind characters. Although she can’t see, Parker doesn’t need anyone’s help or pity, and she has her guard up when it comes to letting others in.
After being in a car accident that resulted in losing her sight and mother, and then her father to a suspected suicide, Parker has a reason to be angry. She’s lost everything she’s ever cared about, including her best friend who she fell in love with when she was young. He hurt her as well, and she’s never given him the light of the day after that. She was really prickly and unpleasant throughout the whole book, and I just couldn’t understand why she was so nasty and unpleasant.
Her rude and abrasive behaviour had me scratching my head a few times during the novel. Yes you’re blind, but if people are trying to be conscious about that and making an effort to be nice to you, you’re not a nice person if you just snap at them or give them the cold shoulder. She has a massive list of rules for strangers to adhere to, some which made sense, like not sneaking up on her or touching her without her permission, but others that were a bit of a stretch, like not offering to help her. I understood that just because she’s disabled she’s not helpless, but the way she acted went that extra mile into mean territory.
Obviously this is a coming of age novel, where Parker learns how unnecessary she’s being especially towards people who love you, and she gets slightly better later on as she learns some crucial life lessons. But in order to reach this process, she has a massive breakdown and lashes out at her cousin, pushes away someone who really cares about her and pretty much plays with the feelings of a really nice guy that she dated. You’d have to be patient to emphasise with Parker’s behaviour and the high school drama here became unbearable at certain points.
It’s kind of refreshing to read about a different character that doesn’t have it together, that does have her flaws that reach beyond her disability. But Parker was someone who was really frustrating at the best of times. The book addresses the disability in a straightforward way, where I realised what was and wasn’t okay when it comes to dealing with blind people, and is empowering for those with the disability. However, because I couldn’t emphasise with Parker’s character, I wasn’t really invested in her story.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Thanks HarperCollins Australia for sending me a review copy of this book!The Things I Didn't Say by Kylie Fornasier
Published by Penguin Australia on May 1, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Amazon | Book Depository | Angus & Robertson
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I hate the label Selective Mutism - as if I choose not to speak, like a child who refuses to eat broccoli. I've used up every dandelion wish since I was ten wishing for the power to speak whenever I want to. I'm starting to wonder if there are enough dandelions.
After losing her best friend that night, Piper Rhodes changes schools, determined that her final year will be different. She will be different. Then she meets West: school captain, star soccer player, the boy everyone talks about. Despite her fear of losing everything all over again, Piper falls in love - and West with her - without Piper ever speaking one word to him. But will it last?
Speech is our primary way of communicating with people. But for Piper, the only way she can communicate in public is with gestures, writing, and non-verbal cues. Imagine how terrifying it would be to not have the ability to speak or to be called on by a teacher who doesn’t know any better in class?
The Things I Didn’t Say captures what it’s like for a teenager with selective mutism, a social anxiety disorder that is often misunderstood. Prior to reading the book, I thought selective mutism was experienced as part of post-traumatic stress disorder. But that’s not the case, often there’s no answer for why people experience the disorder and why they can speak to people they are comfortable with, yet be uncontrollably mute in other social situations.
It’s pretty frightening, but it’s written in a really relatable way that spreads awareness about the condition. Often, people think that just because you don’t speak, that you’re also deaf as well. There are many people who bully and misunderstand Piper’s condition. But the people she befriends makes it less scary for her to be in social situations, due to their understanding and helping her through them.
People seem to think there has to be a reason you don’t speak. You must have been traumatised, abused, raped or witnessed something horrific. Sometimes that’s true, but most of the time it’s not.
West is a popular, handsome jock who connects to Piper on a deeper level. While he sounds pretty cliche, I liked how there was a deeper level to him behind his persona, because popular people have a stigma as well. He doesn’t like soccer, and he doesn’t want to be a lawyer like his parents. He just wants to follow his own aspirations to open a restaurant, and he really cares about Piper and what she’s going through, because she listens to him and she’s not just with him for the status.
Seeing their relationship evolve from non-verbal cues and from West’s patience and understanding was a really sweet experience. It turns out that you can actually create a bond with a person from not saying anything at all. And that’s when you tend to connect to them on a deeper level, to really listen to what they’re saying to you and to understand what you’re really experiencing. We can all take cues from Piper and West’s relationship because they had an emotional connection.
All I ever am is careful, careful with words, careful with people. West is what I need. He shows me what life can be if I’m not careful and I like that life a lot more. I know I could be setting myself up to be heartbroken, but I can live with that. I can’t live wondering what could’ve happened if, for once, I stopped being careful.
While the romance and relationship in The Things I Didn’t Say was my favourite part of it, I did feel like the book lacked a certain depth or emphasis on the concluding thoughts about selective mutism. While it was eye-opening seeing the condition in action, there weren’t any other explanations behind a change in Piper’s behaviour, why she could speak in front of her parents and certain people, and what prompted the change when she starts speaking to others. What drives her behaviour, and what changed within this timeframe? Was it an internal thing that she willed herself to do, or was it a physical condition that suddenly relaxed over time? I thought a stronger concluding message could have helped us to really understand the condition.
The writing was also quite simplistic, making the book lighter and fluffier than what the theme leads you to believe. While it was easy to connect to the characters on a more basic level, they didn’t that deep characterisation behind their words and actions to really help us understand their personalities.
The Things I Didn’t Say features an adorable relationship between a popular guy and a girl who can’t speak. I really enjoyed Piper and West’s story and how they built an authentic relationship with each other, while also finding out more about selective mutism, an often misunderstood anxiety condition.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Thanks Penguin Random House for sending me a review copy!