Everything We Never Said by Sloan Harlow broke my heart at the very beginning. High school kids and death should never go together. Harlow’s artful description of the aftermath of a tragedy hooked me right away.
It’s the first day of her senior year and Ella is blaming herself for the death of her BFF Hayley four months ago. Worse, it seems like everyone else is blaming her, too, including Sawyer, Hayley’s boyfriend. But Ella doesn’t remember anything from that night and she’s not sure she wants to.
What I Liked
Harlow does a wonderful job of showing Ella’s grief, her isolation, and her uncertainty. I taught high school for many years and experienced the absolute horror of losing students to car crashes. The death of a young person in such a senseless manner leaves a gaping hole that Harlow describes perfectly.
The story charts Ella’s progress as she deals with complicated feelings and the budding romance with Sawyer, despite the guilt this causes both of them. Missing her friend, Ella reads Hayley’s journal to find solace but instead finds disturbing details of Hayley’s life just before her death. Images from that night resurface as Ella’s faulty memory begins to heal and those images lead her to suspect more than just a car crash led to Hayley’s death.
The story moves along at a nice pace most of the time (see Minor Criticisms) and I was never bored with it. I’m all for twists and turns and unreliable narrators and I got all those things in this book.
Trigger Warnings—but also stuff I liked.
In addition to a pretty good story, nicely told, Everything We Never Said touches on several serious issues: domestic abuse, manipulation, abusive relationships, and anger issues. I have to mention trigger warnings concerning abortion and violence as well as the situations mentioned. A little of what we used to call heavy petting occurs.
The title, it turns out, refers not only to the unsaid things between two friends when one dies suddenly but also to the way abuse and manipulation occur in a vacuum when the victim doesn’t confide in trusted friends or seek guidance from adults who care for her/him. Silence and secrecy play right into the abuser’s hands.
Everything We Never Said presents valuable discussion points for young readers along with a twisty story.
My only criticisms are with sometimes stilted dialogue and occasional wordiness, but that’s the editor in me. Some situations might have been condensed and some excess verbiage pruned. Dialogue—especially the adults—began to sound like it was all the same person instead of used to build these characters—even though they are minor characters. Otherwise, character building was essentially good, and the high school setting struck a realistic chord with me.
I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to high school kids and their families. Harlow’s bubbly style and her exploration of the complexities of the teenage mind make for an engaging read.
I still have paperback copies of all three Zoraida Grey books with the old covers for $4 each plus postage. Add a comment here or use the Ask Sorchia link in the menu to let me know if you are interested. You can also email me at Sorchia@SorchiaDubois.com .
When I republished the new ebooks of Zoraida Grey, I lost all the reviews on Amazon. They are still on Goodreads so that’s something, but if any of you have read or are reading Zoraida Grey, please consider posting or re-posting a review at Amazon. Thanks so much!
New paperback editions of all three Zoraida Grey books will be available in January or sooner. I have apparently forgotten all I know about formatting and am relearning how to do that.
I’ll be looking for Beta readers in March or sooner for a new paranormal mystery series that I hope to release in Summer 2024. Interested? Leave me a comment or email me at Sorchia@SorchiaDubois.com with BETA READER in the subject.
Mercury Retrograde doesn’t end for another week! Read my post about how to survive Mercury Retrograde and let me know how it’s going for you!