This is the latest from PEN Award-winning author, Carol Lynch Williams. It is the story of twin sisters, Sarah and Annie. Sarah has always struggled with social anxiety and has both looked up to and been jealous of Annie, the outgoing beauty queen and star of the family. Dealing with her crippling shyness and a tough breakup has Sarah feeling at an all-time low just as Annie appears to be grappling with some issues of her own. Annie’s sudden anti-social behaviour and weight gain indicate something is wrong, but it is only after they start spending time together again that Sarah begins to realize the depth of her sister’s struggles. Together, they begin to unravel the secrets and confront the fears that have been causing disruption in their lives.
The novel is told from the dual perspectives of the two girls. Sarah’s sections follow the typical style of first person narration while Annie’s sections are written in fragmentary poems or short lines. It’s an interesting choice that emphasizes the thought processes of the two characters – Sarah’s anxious mind and Annie’s attempts to block out what happened to her – and so works well for the novel.
As some may guess from the description or from reading the first sections of the novel, Never Said addresses the topics of mental health and sexual assault. However, at its heart it is a story about the relationship between Annie and Sarah. Both feel misunderstood and unloved by their parents, and so grow together despite their differences. They face some momentous challenges – Sarah must go out of her comfort zone to get her sister the help she needs and Annie must confront a reality that she’s been trying to hide from – but ultimately both girls become capable of meeting the challenges before them through their love for one another.
While this novel may be limited in scope as it deals primarily with the admission that something wrong has happened (rather than the aftermath or healing) and takes place within the span of only one week, it is important to remember that books that take on these subjects in a sensitive manner are adding to a growing dialogue and that is a valiant endeavour. They are extremely important topics that I’m glad are getting more attention.
Final verdict: a young adult novel good for a simple, quick read. Never Said goes on sale August 25.