Contemporary YA Reviews #6: Not If I See You First & The Things I Didn’t Say

May 13, 2016 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 3 stars, Books, Reviews

Contemporary YA Reviews #6: Not If I See You First & The Things I Didn’t SayNot If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom
Published by HarperCollins Australia on January 1st 2016
Source: Publisher
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson
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The Rules:
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.

epilogue

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

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Thanks HarperCollins Australia for sending me a review copy of this book! 

Contemporary YA Reviews #6: Not If I See You First & The Things I Didn’t SayThe Things I Didn't Say by Kylie Fornasier
Published by Penguin Australia on May 1, 2016
Source: Publisher
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.

epilogue

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

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Thanks Penguin Random House for sending me a review copy! 

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Jeann is an Aussie blogger, gamer, reader who loves to read, write, fangirl, geek out and eat food. You can find me glued to one of my many mobile devices 24/7, or fangirling over the latest YA book, TV show, movie or game. Chat with me on Twitter @happyindulgence

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26 responses to “Contemporary YA Reviews #6: Not If I See You First & The Things I Didn’t Say

  1. Lauren

    I think I'll have to check out Things I Didn't Say, I read something similar last year but it kinda fell apart in some areas and was rushed in others. Will be nice to read something that looks to be held together better.
    My recent post Review: Right Click by Lisa Becker

  2. I only read Not If I See You First so I'll comment on that!

    I also didn't like Parker very much, but I did warm up to her. I think. I don't even remember my feelings for this book hahaha. Did you have any thoughts on the ending? Because I felt like feelings were definitely all over the place there hahaha.

    Awesome reviews Jeann! I have never heard of The Things I Didn't Say sadly!
    My recent post Review: Stolen Songbird

    • The Things I Didn\’t Say is an Aussie YA title which is why lol. Parker was so annoying. I can\’t remember the ending now XD

  3. I'm glad you enjoyed both of these overall, Jeann!

    I actually ended up really loving Not If I See You First, and read it one day. I can totally see what you mean about Parker, though. She was pretty blunt and could be mean at times, but I loved that there was so much more to her personality, as well. I think she just took her own pain out on those around her, which she did come to realise by the end of the book. I just really liked how flawed she was! And how she wasn't particularly likeable, because not everyone is … so why would all books be about really likeable people? Although the open ending left me a little dissatisfied *crying*

    I really want to read The Things I Didn't Say! I really like the sound of West and Piper's relationship – it kind of reminds me of Elyse and Christian's relationship in The Summer of Chasing Mermaids because Elyse lost her voice, and their relationship is built upon unsaid things in a really beautiful way.

    It's a shame that Piper's changes in her condition weren't explored as much as they could have been, though.

    Great reviews, lovely! <3
    My recent post Simply Sunday (#33)

    • I\’m glad you liked Not if I see You First. That\’s definitely the case, we don\’t often read about people who AREN\’T likeable but sometimes I wish she would reel it in a little. I think you\’ll enjoy The Things I Didn\’t Say, I can\’t wait to read the Summer of Chasing Mermaids too! I\’m waiting for the paperback to come out on TBD so I can snap it up finally – the relationship sounds beautiful!

  4. ConfessionsofaReadaholic

    Hmm… I do hate it when characters are unnecessarily mean to other people. It definitely sounds like an interesting book though. And I’m sad that THE THINGS I DIDN’T SAY didn’t go too in depth…it’s definitely a topic not talked about too much in YA! Great reviews 😀
    My recent post The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood

  5. The Things I Didn’t Say is one I keep seeing about the place, and sounds like an interesting read, but Not If I See You First…not so much. The MC sounds like she'd be a bit of a turn off for me (I don't understand unnecessarily rude people *sigh*)

    Great reviews Jeann 🙂 thank you for sharing them.
    My recent post Wattle’s Wonderings #11 – Baby Steps (an update)

    • Yeah, the protagonist just drove me crazy because of how intentionally rude she was to everyone, without taking responsibility for it. Thank you Wattle!

    • I completely agree Dani! I'm so glad you'll be checking it out, definitely keen on hearing what you think about it!

  6. Cyn @ Bookmunchies

    Both interesting topics that you don't really see in contemporary YA! I don't think I knew that Not If I See You First was about a blind character. The Things I Didn't Say is new to me, but I'm definitely intrigued by it! Glad you enjoyed both books, thanks for the review, Jeann!
    My recent post Review: A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

    • Definitely, I love how both of them covered some important issues. No problems, I'm glad you enjoyed them Cyn!

  7. Grace @ RebelMommyBB

    I really enjoyed Not If I See You First but totally get how Parke can turn a lot of people off. She was so blunt and harsh ALL THE TIME. Still I really enjoyed the story. The Things I Didn't Say sounds like one I would enjoy – Great reviews!
    My recent post Review ~ Ask Me How I Got Here

    • Parker was definitely a difficult protagonist to love! I'm glad you ended up enjoying it though Grace! Thank you.

  8. First book: I've been drawn to the cover ever since I've seen it floating around. I'm glad I haven't picked it up because it doesn't look like we're going to get along.

    Second book: I like reading about characters that are mute or deaf. It gives me a perspective into their world. While mutism is something I'm not that familiar with, I'm really curious about this one.
    My recent post [636]: The Mistake I Made by Paula Daly

    • Both books definitely cover issues that aren't usually talked about which is great – I love the cover of Not if I See you first but the bright yellow is so different to the character. The second book was so interesting with how the condition was handled! Thanks for visiting, Joy.

  9. I soooo want to read The Things I Didn't Say. SO BAD. I think mutism is really very interesting and I've written books about it before, so I kinda want to read ALL the opinions, you know?! Ahem. Aaaand, I thoroughly agree with your review on Not If I See You First. AGH. I mean I liked it and I though Parker was a super interesting character. But I kept waiting for the "lightbulb" moment when she realised she was actually being horrible to people and she needed to change. But…no? I really don't get it. 🙁 Sure disabilities are very misunderstood and it would be SO frustrating to have people treating you wrong and stuff. But nothing excuses rudeness for me. And Parker was downright cruel to people and didn't even ever take responsibility for it. >_>