What to Say Next Review
Julie Buxbaum is a seasoned Young Adult literature writer, but new to me. I was gifted two of her books at Christmas time, Tell Me Three Things and What to Say Next.
Contrary to the cliche, I chose to read this book because of the cover. It looked light and summery; what I found was a complex and heavy story line, but would still make a great summer-read.
KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they? I don’t even understand.
DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her.
After Kit Lowell loses her father in a sudden car accident, she's forced to face a new normal when grief consumes her life. Not knowing how her friends will react to her "normal", she finds herself sitting next to David Drucker at lunch. His social isolation and blunt honesty sparks a friendship between the two. Just when David is learning to navigate his relationship with Kit, she asks him to help her solve the details of her father's accident. Read a full summary here.
Where Nine Perfect Stranger's characters left me longing for character diversity, What to Say Next made up for it. Kit is biracial with a white father and Indian mother. Indian culture is sprinkled throughout, from food to expectations of parents and a few tidbits of Hindu religious practices. David has high functioning autism (Asperger's) and a family that would hang the moon for him if they could. His relationship with his sister gives me all the feels.
I love YA lit with this kind of representation. I believe children/teens who are striving to find their place in the world and understand where they fit in it should be able to pick up a book and read about a character that is a reflection of themselves. Authors are finally hearing the plea for diversity, although we have a long way to go. I thank Buxbaum for her representation.
As an adult reading YA lit, I found it comical David Drucker goes through a makeover phases. Think She's All That with Freddie Prince Jr. While I don't agree that it's a good message to send teens that you have to be in fashion to get noticed, it is a plot device for rom-coms. I'll let it slide.
For anyone who has had to grieve, you know it takes no prisoners. Buxbaum flawlessly weaves the complexity of grief throughout the pages. Just when Kit has a shining moment as a carefree teenage girl, Buxbaum floors you with a reminder that her father recently passed. I like to think of Buxbaum representing grief herself and reaching through the pages to slap you right as you’re enjoying yourself. Yet, in the moments grief isn’t present on the page, the reader has a reminder of hope. You find David hoping to connect once more with Kit, and Kit hoping to find her stride once again. What to Say Next is a wonderful reminder that life will indeed carry on, no matter our struggles.
Though I wasn't expecting it to be heartbreaking, it was heartwarming at the same time. It's an excellent option the the YA lover and though I haven't read it, I've heard phenomenal things about Tell Me Three Things. Add them both to your to-read list.