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Book Review: Things We Couldn’t Say by Jay Coles

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For young adults that seek out queer POC stories there isn’t much out there. Jay Coles fills this niche with his upcoming novel, Things We Couldn’t Say. Read on for a full review of the book Things We Couldn’t Say.

things we couldn't review

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Gio is a Black teen dealing with a ton of tough issues in his community.  His mom, Jackie, abandoned the family years before and his religious father can’t seem to accept his bisexuality.  He has a core group of supportive friends but has to navigate adults who aren’t exactly accepting to his identity.  Gio also helps his special needs brother and when a new student arrives along with the reappearance of his long lost mom Jackie, Gio’s world gets turned upside down.

Although this book could be considered a queer coming of age novel, here is what I appreciated; Gio knows who he is.  He knows who he is attracted to and decides on his own terms, not caring how other’s want to label him.  Of course, it takes him some time to become comfortable with public displays of affection but bottom line, Gio is already past some of the issues that other bisexual kids deal with.  He’s queer and no amount of scripture nor guilt from his alcoholic father is going to change that.  That right there is so refreshing!!

I found Things We Couldn’t Say to be more of a look into how an absent parent can affect a child.  Gio has a deep longing and some fear surrounding his mother’s abandonment.  He doesn’t understand the circumstances of her leaving, but he doesn’t eventually find out why she left. Gio accepts the reasoning but isn’t afraid to call out his mom on her selfish actions.  Almost every single character feels strongly about Jackie’s decision but I didn’t think there was much empathy at the end of the novel on why she felt her only option was to leave.  

Still, Things We Couldn’t Say is a powerful novel that explores grief, fear and sexuality of urban teens with some fun pop culture references sprinkled in. Things We Couldn’t Say releases September 21, 2021 and can be pre-ordered here.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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