Review Detail

Young Adult Fiction 167
engaging suspense/thriller
Overall rating
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EVERYTHING WE NEVER SAID is an intriguing YA suspense about grief/loss, abuse, and friendship. Ella is about to start her senior year without her BFF Hayley. Although she does not remember what happened, she and Hayley had been drinking at a party and then left in her car. They crashed into the side of a bridge, and Hayley presumably went into the deadly river below. Ella blames herself for Hayley's death and feels lost in her grief and guilt.

This year, she begins to connect with Hayley's boyfriend, Sawyer, and the guidance counselor, Mr. Wilkens, who is trying to help with their loss. However, she finds Hayley's diary when helping to clean out her room, and as she reads it, she sees Hayley's harrowing story of abuse at the hands of her boyfriend, S. As Ella gets tangled up in it, she begins to fear for herself, especially when Sawyer is showing signs of anger. As the pieces fall, Ella will be on a race to figure out what happened to Hayley and how to survive.

What I loved: This was a really consuming and page-turning read with a slow build at the beginning that works well. At first, it feels like a drama/romance, but it soon turns into a suspense/thriller as things pick up. The story deals with some intense and difficult themes, including teenage pregnancy (for example, Sawyer's mother is extremely young), neglectful parents (particularly Hayley's mother), anger management, complicated families, socioeconomic inequality, grief/loss, domestic abuse and child abuse, dangerous relationships, friendship and asking for help, and isolation.

This is a really thought-provoking story of the difficulty of escaping abuse and dealing with guilt/grief over the loss of a friend. Ella is also learning what it means to be a friend as she navigates life in the aftermath of Hayley's death, and she is considering her own past. The story is told primarily from Ella's perspective with several chapters inserted from the perspective of Sawyer. Interludes of Hayley's diary are also included and added quite a bit to the story.

The legacy of abuse and anger management were also strong themes. The story showed the impact of uncontrolled anger as well as how to find resources on dealing it. While the further downstream impacts were not able to be shown, it did mention therapy, books, and recognizing the problem. Freeing oneself from abuse is difficult, and the story shows the isolating and anxiety-driven aspects that can lead to confusion and misplaced emotions. Resources and healing after are also briefly discussed.

What left me wanting more: The mystery didn't build as intensely as I would have liked, and some of the major twists felt like they were just thrown in there without the lead-in that would have made them feel a bit smoother. Things were happening fast at the end, and it felt a bit rushed. One of the big twists was also easy to guess right from the start.

Final verdict: EVERYTHING WE NEVER SAID is an engaging YA suspense/thriller that handles some difficult themes with a story about abuse, grief, and secrets. Recommend for older YA readers.
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