Thanks so much for coming to my stop for Colored Pages Tours’ Things We Couldn’t Say book tour. Keep reading to find my review, book recommendations based off Things We Couldn’t Say, and links to where you can purchase the book.
Title: Things We Couldn’t Say
Author: Jay Coles
Pub Date: 09/21/21
Genre: YA Contemporary
Edition: ARC (Advanced Reader’s Copy)
From one of the brightest and most acclaimed new lights in YA fiction, a fantastic new novel about a bi Black boy finding first love . . . and facing the return of the mother who abandoned his preacher family when he was nine.
There’s always been a hole in Gio’s life. Not because he’s into both guys and girls. Not because his father has some drinking issues. Not because his friends are always bringing him their drama. No, the hole in Gio’s life takes the shape of his birth mom, who left Gio, his brother, and his father when Gio was nine years old. For eight years, he never heard a word from her . . . and now, just as he’s started to get his life together, she’s back.
It’s hard for Gio to know what to do. Can he forgive her like she wants to be forgiven? Or should he tell her she lost her chance to be in his life? Complicating things further, Gio’s started to hang out with David, a new guy on the basketball team. Are they friends? More than friends? At first, Gio’s not sure . . . especially because he’s not sure what he wants from anyone right now.
There are no easy answers to love — whether it’s family love or friend love or romantic love. In Things We Couldn’t Say, Jay Coles, acclaimed author of Tyler Johnson Was Here, shows us a guy trying to navigate love in all its ambiguity — hoping at the other end he’ll be able to figure out who is and who he should be.
Things We Couldn’t Say was a delight to read. Although it was the perfect length, I was still hurt that it had to end because I was enjoying myself so much. There were so many things to like about this book but I think my favorite parts were vulnerable Black boys, Gio’s immaculate taste in music, and the beautifully written advice and metaphors.
“Maybe the grief I experience in waves and seasons wouldn’t be as heavy as a tsunami tiding over me, completely consuming every inch of my body until I, too, am something to be grieved.”
Gio’s mother showing up in his life brought a slew of emotions from anger to sadness. It felt so special to get to read about a Black boy who’s allowed to feel all of his emotions. Sometimes Gio lashed out. Sometimes he kept his feelings bottled up. A lot of times he cried. It was a realistic picture of the way grief and trauma can affect us, and I just loved him so much. There was a moment that felt like an episode of Fresh Prince with Will and Uncle Phil, and I definitely teared up reading it.
“That’s the thing about grief: it’s a sneaky little devil that creeps up on you and catches you off guard. It pops up when you’re not prepared and takes shapes that you least expect.”
The romance was so sweet, and I liked that it wasn’t all roses and sunshine, but that David and Gio had to figure out how to navigate their own grief, differences, and societal expectations. The friendships were also great, and I loved how fleshed out Olly and Ayesha were. Their personalities were so strong, and their dynamic with Gio was fun to watch.
And all the advice in this story was just *chef’s kiss* I would read a line, and be like who knew I needed to hear this? Truly just a beautiful story because even through the heavy moments, this book was infused with humor and hope and connection. Cause Black people’s love for Paramore will always make me laugh.
It did take me a bit to get used to the writing style of this book, but overall I loved the story, and I’m so glad we’re getting so many different perspectives in YA that we usually don’t get. Bisexual Black boys who are the main characters don’t have a lot of shelf space, so shoutout to Jay Coles and Scholastic for giving teens another opportunity to see themselves and their situations reflected in a heartwarming story.
*Thank you to the publisher and Colored Pages for the ARC of Things We Couldn’t Say. All opinions are my own. All quotes have been taken from the ARC version*
The Passing Playbook by Isaac Fitzsimons is a great choice if you want more of the teammate relationship vibes and inner struggle over a big decision.
I’d recommend the Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass if you want to read another voicey YA with a Black queer boy.
Where to Buy
JAY COLES is the author of critically acclaimed TYLER JOHNSON WAS HERE, a composer with ASCAP, and a professional musician residing in Muncie, Indiana. He is a graduate of Vincennes University and Ball State University and holds degrees in English and Liberal Arts. When he’s not writing diverse books, he’s advocating for them, serving with The Revolution church, and composing music for various music publishers. Jay’s forthcoming novel THINGS WE COULDN’T SAY is set to be released 9.21.21 with Scholastic! His novels can be purchased at Barnes and Noble or at Amazon.