* * * 1/2
Getting drunk homecoming night your senior year is never a good idea, but Jake Hayes never expected it all to end with a car crash and a t-post embedded in his throat.
His biggest regret about it all? What he never said to Samantha Shay. He’s been in love with her for years and never had the guts to tell her. Now it’s too late. Because after that night, Jake will never be able to talk again.
When Jake returns to his small island home, population 5,000, he’ll have to learn how to deal with being mute. He also finds that his family isn’t limited to his six brothers and sisters, that sometimes an entire island is watching out for you. And when he gets the chance to spend more time with Samantha, she’ll help him learn that not being able to talk isn’t the worst ting that could ever happen to you. Maybe, if she’ll let him, Jake will finally tell her what he didn’t say before, even if he can’t actually say it.
I imagined that this book would be terribly gutting and I was prepared to shed a few tears. Instead I found this beautiful story by Keary Taylor to be the opposite – it’s uplifting and hopeful.
I was immediately taken with Jake who’s looking forward to his senior year and counting down the days to graduation when he can join the Air Force like he’s always dreamed of. His life is irreversibly changed when the car accident he’s in leaves him seriously hurt. Worse yet is the loss of his vocal chords rendering him mute. Getting back to normal is not quite as simple without that ability that we all take for granted.
You’ve heard the adage, “it takes a village”. In this case, it takes an island to rally around Jake and give him the support he needs. Most of the time he’s unsure of what to do with the overwhelming attention. Thankfully, the story isn’t bogged down with self-loathing and self-pity. It is there to an extent but it never gets too out of control. I admire Jake's resolve to push forward. He shows remarkable maturity when it comes down to some hard decisions, managing to gain perspective.
What I Didn’t Say also presents a pleasant departure from most YA novels that have the protagonists coming from broken homes or single-parent families. Jake’s is very much intact and very functional. Each member has their own personality but they are one of the tightest families you’ll come across. It’s such a pleasure to witness his parents and siblings standing behind Jake, treating him as normal but also giving him the push he needs every so often to snap out of the doldrums.
Wonderful friends also surround Jake including his forever crush, Samantha. His accident has opened the door to getting to know her better. Their growing friendship opens his eyes to the people around him. And through their friendship, Jake learns that while he has been silenced by an accident, there are people who choose to struggle through their problems silently. Samantha needs Jake every bit as much as he needs her. Together they overcome some pretty harsh situations.
What I Didn’t Say is a thoughtful story with quiet impact. At the end, the author also offers readers her personal inspiration for the story which only adds to the warm feeling you have from reading the book. Thank you Keary Taylor for sharing such a beautiful story with us!