“It’s times like this I miss speaking the most, these random, meaningless conversations that could go anywhere.”
The Things I Didn’t Say by Kylie Fornasier (Pengin, 2016) is a powerful story about the difficulties of finding a voice when silence is a daily struggle.
Piper has selective mutism. She can’t talk when people other than her immediate family or close friends, are present. She’s battled her silence her whole life – with therapy, understanding teachers and the support of her family.
Starting at a new school in Year 12, Piper thinks this could be the change she needs to finally talk. When popular boy West takes an interest in Piper, despite her silence, things are looking up. Piper’s anxiety support group, new friend Tanvi, the school magazine committee, and her photography, combine to help. But there are kids at school who don’t understand selective mutism and memories of what happened at Piper’s old school. Having a boyfriend is hard enough when you can talk your problems through, perhaps it’s just not worth it.
“This is the only place where no one expects anything of me, the only place I can’t disappoint anyone.”
Piper lives in the Blue Mountains and nature is her solace. Obviously, I loved this aspect of The Things I Didn’t Say. Bonding with West over bird calls, hunting for the elusive lyre bird, and hiking in the bush when everything gets too much. Then there’s the geography assignment where they have to email a tree in Melbourne. (Why is this not real!?)
“The Urban Forest Plan is attempting to connect people with the trees to create a growing awareness of the importance of nature in urban environments.”
Who knew trees could answer all your existential questions? I suspected as much all along. The tuart tree outside my window is always there for me.
“Why can’t I live in a world where no one speaks and there’s only the sound of the birds?”
I agree Piper. I picked up The Things I Didn’t Say because I had selective mutism as a child and teenager (a long time ago). My silence battled with the things I wanted to say for years, although my selective mutism was very different to Piper’s. Sadly I never had the hottest guy in school pining for me. I would have loved reading The Things I Didn’t Say as a teenager. I hope Piper’s journey helps many readers.
“Hearts don’t break like dropping a glass. They crack slowly, so you can feel each fracture.”
There was a problem, perhaps due to my being all romanced out. (Despite what recent reading seems to imply, it’s my least fav genre. Give me an un-romance any day!) At about the 200 page mark, I struggled to keep going. West’s dithering was starting to grate. Piper’s decision on p.243 had me ready to wind things up, 50 more pages weren’t in agreement.
Then I got to the post-it note. That freaked me out. Good thing I kept reading. Sometimes you have to wade through the romance to get what you want.
I love the cover design by Bruno Herfst. (There were two options and I prefer what was published.) I think it’s a rule that any book about selective mutism must have the cover picture’s mouth obscured. Using torn paper, from the myriad scraps Piper writes on to communicate, is perfect. I would have liked a hand written typography, but perhaps that’s just my typog obsession showing up. Internally, Piper’s notes use a hand written font and when West replies in writing, his hand has a different font.
“I am able to do this, starting now.”