There are some books you just need to read.
I’d heard about this book many times before, and being as I love contemporary YA so much, I added it to my never-ending TBR. When the current series I was listening to started to fall flat, I took a chance, being as there is such high praise for her sophomore YA novel, What to Say Next.
The first thing that intrigued me about this novel was the mystery writer. It starts off with Somebody/Nobody introducing himself (he establishes that he is, in fact, a he) and Jessie Holms convincing herself that conversing with him isn’t such a bad idea. Her mother’s death on top of moving halfway across the country in a house without color screams she needs someone to talk to about medial things. And she wants, and I wanted, someone who wouldn’t judge her for the things she thought to save her.
From the start, I loved SN. The first page convinced me that I had to know what his role in the novel was, even though I had to get used to Jessie’s character for a few pages. The truth of it is, she has a lot of growing to do in the book. Her flaws are invisible to herself, and she’s indignant to believe they exist at first, like any good main character should be. But I fell in love with her, her story, and the romance between her and SN. I wanted the stereotypical happily-ever-after to happen for her, the one you see at the end of all the Hallmark movies.
That brings me back to having a book you just need to read sometimes.
I listened to Julie Buxbaum’s note to the readers after I finished the book and loved what she had to say. She wrote the book that, when her mother died like Jessie’s, she couldn’t write until thirty-years after the fact. She dreamed up a person for Jessie to have to help navigate through the already awkward, painful years to help the even more painful and even more awkward situation better. There are moments where everyone needs a SN, no matter their age or the time in their lives. Sometimes, unfortunately, there isn’t a SN there to help piece together the distressing and make something bearable, even enjoyable. That’s why I loved SN, a character who I didn’t have a face for, even though I had my guesses of his true identity. Because life is easier when you have the time to rethink what you’re going to say and click the backspace key. But sometimes it’s more real that way. The things you’re afraid to say out loud are easier on a keyboard.
If you haven’t checked out Julie Buxbaum’s YA debut, it’s a necessity. The story is heartfelt and true, and it has just enough mystery to leave you aching for more.