From early on, it’s clear what Adam did to Grace: he sexually assaulted her. Whether it’s intended to be a surprise or not, it’s honestly in the novel’s favor that it can be figured out so early on. As Grace narrates the “before” and Joy narrates the “after” of Adam’s death, we see how he affected both of them and how the sisters’ relationship with one another broke down. Both of them are neck-deep in troubles at all times and it makes you want to take them to your bosom so you can make everything better for them.
Maybe what Adam did is so clear to me because I’m a fellow survivor. Grace is far worse off than I ever was–in addition to living with OCD and magical thinking before, she develops an eating disorder after–but we thought about what happened to us in the same roundabout ways.
Honestly, the title is so apt it hurts. Most of Grace and Joy’s harships come about because of those three words: “please don’t tell.” Whether they said it themselves or someone said it to them, they secrets they promise to keep put them on a one-way road to tragedy. Those words came from the mouth of the boy who sexually abused me and for some reason, twelve-year-old me did what he said for six months. Ten years later, I’m still dealing with how my life changed because of those words.
Though I concentrate on Grace above because she’s the one I have a personal connection with, Joy is no less interesting as blackmail drives her to find out what really happened the night Adam died and she deals with her own alcohol issues. Multiple blackouts, including one on the night of the party that makes us wonder if Joy really is the killer as the blackmailer claims.
Like I said. Both troubled.
In summary, Please Don’t Tell is an incredible read, but it’s going to hurt if you’ve personally been affected by the issues within its paces. The book took me a very long time to read because it hurt so bad even though the content itself was so brilliantly good.
What Left Me Wanting:
It took me about half the book to figure out who was blackmailing Joy. That’s a bit unfortunate, but the full story of why and what happened to lead up to it is bound to surprise you like it did me.
Moreover, I’m troubled by Joy’s possible asexuality and how Levi disregards her when she asks him to stop hitting on her. On page 116, she tells him that flirting is “never ever going to work. Not with you or anybody else. Not for me.” Being asexual, my heart leaped a little in joy–but no other quotes further indicate asexuality and the word itself is never said. When Levi disregards what she said and continues to hit on her, she does nothing about it. Add in how aggressively she pursued and got with a past crush and I’m no longer certain of what the line meant at all.
This is very much personal disappointment, however. It’s unlikely to bother other readers the way it bothered me and I’m buying a hardcover of Please Don’t Tell for my personal collection regardless.
Come for the psychological thriller and mystery, stay for the strength of the characters. If someone has done to you what Adam did to Grace, I hope you have the strength to tell. What may come in the wake of what will most likely suck and suck horribly, but Grace and Joy demonstrate what happens when we don’t tell. Please Don’t Tell offers brilliant characters and a new perspective on sexual assault just when you thought it had been explored in every possible way.
*confronts exactly how it hurts people not to talk about their sexual abuse
*compelling and hard to put down because of the above and more