Every Word You Never Said by Jordon Greene

I had such high hopes for this book. I really did. Unfortunately it fell incredibly short. The whole time I was reading, I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what I didn’t like about it, but after reading lower rated reviews on StoryGraph, I figured it out thanks to people putting into words what I couldn’t.

The plot follows Skylar, a newly adopted nonverbal boy, who likes skirts and wears one to school. This sends the conservative Christians into a spiral because “boys in skirts are against God!” *eyeroll* This prompts a super sexist dress code proposal spearheaded by none other than Jacob’s toxically Christian father. All with the sub plot of romance between Skylar and Jacob. It’s also a dual POV in 1st person which I didn’t love, but that’s not the book’s fault. I’m just not entirely a fan of 1st person.

Don’t get me wrong, this book was cute—in an extremely superficial way. The nonverbal rep is good, though you’re trying to tell me that people can lip read literally everything this boy says? When only about 30% of the English language is lip readable? Sounds fake, but okay. The only thing really diverse about this book is Imani, the Black pansexual witch. Though she’s written as the stereotypical Black sidekick which wasn’t great. I did like how Wicca was explained though. It was a nice contrast to the extreme of Christianity. The only other “diverse” characters were Jacob (a white, gay, rocker boy) and Skylar (a white, nonverbal, gay boy who likes wearing skirts). Otherwise there was zero diversity because cis-het white boys is the opposite of diverse. The characters were underdeveloped and all we got was surface level personality. Even the romance wasn’t developed well. It starts out as a love-at-first-sight slow-burn, which I absolutely love. However, everything gets thrown away after Skylar throws a tantrum and then guilt trips Jacob because he can’t read sign language well. So much of the development was off-screen and that was incredibly frustrating. And don’t even get me started on the amount of homophobia.

The toxic Christianity runs strong in this small North Carolina town and gods forbid you’re gay. The first time the f-slur was thrown around I almost rage quit the book. Then it was used again and again and again. Jacob even said something along the lines of “they can’t call me that slur, but I can use it on myself and that’s okay.” And like, I get reclaiming things that were once seen as slurs (i.e. queer), but I draw the line at the f-slur. Their classmates slinging it at them was bad enough. There was also one use of the r-slur by Skylar towards himself and that wasn’t okay either. I get that he’s extremely traumatized from years in bad foster/group homes, but never once did a character on-page ever call him that. So I felt it was extremely uncalled for. 

Overall there was a lot more telling than showing and it made for a clunky reading experience. There was supposedly a conversation about sex between love interests that we only find out about because Skylar mentioned it, and there were a lot of random time skips (which is fine, but not when important stuff happens and we find out after the fact). Would I recommend this book? No. It had so much potential and it fell incredibly flat. For me, the only redeeming quality is the cover. Not even the conflict was satisfying because they failed. Then the decision was overturned after the fact by the NC Supreme Court. So what was the point?

medium-paced

  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? It’s complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It’s complicated

Content Warnings:

Graphic: Bullying, Child abuse, Emotional abuse, Homophobia, Religious bigotry, Ableism, and Sexism

Moderate: Abandonment, Child death, Death, Hate crime, Sexual content, Suicide, and Violence

Minor: Injury/injury detail

Frequent use of the f-slur and one instance of the r-slur.

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