If I was Kylie Fornasier, and this was my book, I would be so damn proud. ‘The Things I Didn’t Say‘ had me completely absorbed into the very heart of the narrator. When I put the book down I’d often feel like I couldn’t talk.
Just like Piper.
How did Fornasier do it? Sure, it’s written in first person present, which is a good start. I’ve been known to take a break from a book and be all jittery because somewhere out there Cato and half a dozen other tributes are lurking and all they want to do is knock my bow-and-arrow wielding self into oblivion. So, yes, first person present POV is a great way of immersing a reader.
But there’s more here. I was so taken by this thoughtful and clever book, once I finished and blew my nose a few more times, I analysed the innards out of it to try and pinpoint what made it work for me. Turns out Fornasier Saved the Cat. Don’t know if it was intentional, but it worked.
In a romance sort of way, the novel follows Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat. And there’s a spoiler warning on this one.
Opening image: A tantalising intro into narrator Piper’s life. She’s tearing her journal to bits, she’s seen at least three psychologists, and we don’t have a clue why. It’s a good hook.
Set-up 1-10%: We learn about the things Piper needs to ‘fix’: 1) Dead relationship with previous best friend Cassie; 2) Fear of jumping off Peace Rock; 3) Can’t speak in public (Selective Mutism); 4) Fear of what others think about her SM; 5) Doesn’t want to work actively to overcome SM; 6) Family issues because of her SM. All of these are sorted by the end of the novel.
Catalyst 5%: We first meet West, the Love Interest.
Theme 10%: Despite all Piper’s fears, West happily makes jokes and banter throughout their first written conversation. She can’t see it yet, but she’s not ruled by her SM. She can still be her own person, whether she talks or not.
Debate 10% – 25%: She doesn’t want to have anything to do with West, sure she’ll get hurt or he will walk away when he realises she won’t talk. But there are signs she is cracking her tough mould as she stops being a ‘lurker’ on her facebook SM support page, and writes a post and even comments on other posts.
P35 – They are halfway across the quad when West stops and jogs back. ‘Forgot my pen,’ he calls over his shoulder to Indiana. When he gets to the table, he picks up the pen without saying a word. He pulls the bag towards him and turns in over. Sorry, he writes in the middle. He looks at me for a long moment and then leaves with my pen.
Break into Act Two 25%: She decides to tutor West in German.
25% – 50%:
B-story: The B-story, normally the love-story in a non-romance, is actually the empowering-herself story in this novel. She joins a Support Group for anxiety sufferers – because her parents pleaded, but we later learn this is something her wonderful psych wanted her to do before and she never did. We can sense she is growing, but there is a way to go. She gets a bullying note on her locker and skips school because of it. She sees Cassie, who ignores her. She should feel worse, but she’s been on facebook again and the support she gets from fellow SM people is lifting her up (is this the only time facebook makes people feel better about themselves?).
Fun and games: Two kisses with West in this section, a midnight rendezvous and he actually gets her to jump off Peace Rock. She’s also building friendships at school.
50% midpoint: It’s kind of a good midpoint with side serves of bad. West starts to expect Piper to talk to him, because he knows she can talk to people she’s close to. And Piper’s little sister Evie stops talking, because she wants to be just like her big sister. Piper solves the second problem quite easily, but it’s a sign of her growing realisation of how much her SM affects the people she loves. She smooths over the first issue, but the tension remains. For the moment, things are working, but we know that can’t last.
Bad guys close in 50% – 75%: Lots of passion in the relationship here – both in arguments and bedroom antics. Tension with West’s parents and his friend Indiana. There’s some real, solid, tear-inducing good – just check out her response to the serious online bullying she gets when a bad rumour is spread about her; and some gut-tweaking bad as she gets better and better at lying to her parents and you wonder when the bottom will fall out of her charade.
P214: ‘As for the person who started the rumour, I want you to know I don’t hate you. I feel sorry for you. I hope you can find happiness within yourself, instead of looking for ways to destroy other people’s happiness.
‘… I urge you to think about the power of your words. They might be free but they add up to so much.’
All is lost/ Dark night of the soul 75%: Parents find out about the weekend away that Piper lied about. She’s banned from seeing West, but does anyway, only to break up with him. He says he loves her, and she can’t say it back, and she knows he really wants her to, and she can’t handle that.
Break into Act Three 75%: She starts by telling her parents the truth.
Finale 75-100%: She takes on board the advice from everyone around her to start this final stage. Her parents, her new friends, Cassie. Things are looking up. She can talk to a few more people. But – boompha!- West is in a coma in ICU. Hence the crying from me for the last 50 pages. She sits out in the waiting room, his parents refusing her entry, and she realises she’s doing nothing. She needs to act. She empowers herself, she overcomes the prejudices of former enemies to make them friends, she brightens the lives of others, she really opens up in her Support Group, and starts speaking to more and more people. She is showing us how she has fixed all those issues she had at the start. Now all she needs is for West to wake up.
Final Image: Yeah, it’s a bit corny. And it did make me worry that, after spending 3/4 of a novel teaching us how SM is not about choosing not to talk, suddenly she chooses to talk? But online reviews from SM sufferers seem positive, and in terms of ending on a note that ties everything up, this one does it. I closed the book feeling complete.
But looking splotchy and atrocious.
A recommended read.