Never Said / by Carol Lynch Williams. 1.7.2016

Blink ISBN 9780310746614

HS Grades 9-12 Rating: 3

For as long as she can remember, 16-year-old Sarah has lived in the shadow of her twin sister Annie, the beautiful and outgoing beauty pageant queen. On the outside, Sarah seems content to remain unseen, struggling with severe social anxiety, while inside, harboring resentment towards her perfect sister. However, everything changed last year, when Annie gained weight, stopped doing pageants, and fell from her popular social status, tilting the entire family out of balance.

Now, their mother is constantly badgering Annie about her weight, while Sarah feels she is the object of her mother’s blame. Additionally, Sarah is dealing with her own relationship disappointments and feelings of worth. Meanwhile, their father has distanced himself with work. No one, not even Sarah, knows what happened to bring about Annie’s new self-image. Will Sarah discover Annie’s secret? Will things never said finally come to the surface and bring freedom and healing–or further hurt?

In Never Said, Carol Lynch Williams weaves a tangled web of brokenness, shame, pain, and sisterly love. Throughout the story, the author alternates between the viewpoints of the two sisters. Annie’s perspective is presented through free verse poetry, allowing one to see into her emotions without revealing her secret tragedy. The plot moves along through Sarah’s short, first-person narratives. The writing is vivid and emotionally moving. Though the plot is intriguing, the suspense is mainly built on discovering Annie’s secret, leaving only a few pages to wrap up the resolution that is somewhat lacking in light of the preceding circumstances.

This book addresses many weighty topics including sexual abuse, bullying, depression, negative body image, and social anxiety. All are handled in a tasteful, age-appropriate way; however, the gravity of the novel may overwhelm its intended audience. The book also contains kissing but descriptions are kept to an appropriate level. Overall, this book is a tragic tale that does end on a note of hope for personal and family restoration, while it also provides insight into the emotions and thoughts of teens who have been abused or struggle with anxiety disorders.

Justina McBride, CLJ