Tuesday 3 May 2016

The Things I Didn’t Say

The Things I Didn’t Say by Kylie Fornasier (Penguin Books) PB RRP $19.99 ISBN 978 0143573630

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Losing the power to speak, though physically capable of doing so, is called Selective Mutism. Seventeen year old Piper Rhodes suffers from this mysterious condition even though, as she says, ‘I’ve used up every dandelion wish since I was ten wishing for the power to speak whenever I want to.’ She communicates with hand signals, facial expressions, text and hand written messages and emails. However, she can speak – but only to people she feels most comfortable with – her family, her psychologist (who is on a year’s Sabbatical) and Cassie, her best friend with whom she’s had an altercation, leading Piper at the beginning of the book to starting at a new school despite the fact she is in her final year at school.

It is certainly a brave thing to face people knowing that although you look normal (or, in Piper’s case, attractive), but happily teachers at the new school are prepared, though not the students. It’s surprising then, that despite not speaking, Piper is almost immediately befriended by West, a boy she regards as a ‘Royal’, one of the school’s elite – and coincidentally the school captain. Most of the other students accept Piper’s Mutism, but there are some episodes where she is tormented by ‘invisible’ others.

Piper and West become an item, even though the former never speaks. West seems almost too good to be true the way he accepts Piper’s Mutism, even when the two – Piper still mute -- go to a holiday house to have sex. It is only towards the end of the book when there is a dramatic turn of events that Piper finds her voice around him – and around others.

This is a well-written novel, sympathetic to Piper’s plight. My only quibble is that the final school state-wide exams are down-played with family and social relationships taking the forefront. Piper’s plan to become a journalist is replaced by her desire to study psychology.

Recommended for the readers aged 13+ years.

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