Review: What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum

Title:What to Say Next

Author: Julie Buxbaum

Published: 11 July 2017 | Delacorte Press

Date Read: 08 July 2017

Synopsis:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Tell Me Three Things comes a charming and poignant story about two struggling teenagers who find an unexpected connection just when they need it most. For fans of Sophie Kinsella, Jennifer Niven, and Rainbow Rowell.

Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world.

KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they? I don’t even understand.

DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her.

When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David. Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?

*Finished copy kindly provided by Penguin Random House for review*

Ever since reading Tell Me Three Things I told myself that I would read anything and everything Julie Buxbaum writes. Luckily, the awesome people from PRH gave me a chance to read an early copy of her new novel What To Say Next.

Before I started writing this review, I’m contemplating if I loved What To Say Next more than I loved Tell Me Three Things. I rated both books 5 stars so that was immediately a dead end for me, but then I realized these two books differ from one another. What To Say Next tackles a very different plot line with a different set of unique characters comparing to Tell Me Three Things.

Written in alternating POV’s of the main characters David and Kit –  What To Say Next is about these two people who are socially different from one another but both going thru a rough and tough time. From the characters, the plot and even the sub-plot – everything clicked and worked out great for me.

“Good-weird is what I’ve been telling myself I am for years, when being just plain weird was too much of a burden to carry. Good-weird is the only solution to the problem, when normal isn’t a viable option. Good-weird may very well be the opposite of cool, but I’ve never aspired to cool. At least not the version of it I’m familiar with.”

David is different. That’s my first impression of him as I started reading this book. But what becomes prominent as I go on reading is that he’s different in a good way – intelligent, honest and has a good heart. He is dubbed as a loner at school because he’s always by himself with his headphones and notebook in his own world but I adored him. For some reason, it’s not a tough job to connect with David because he wears his heart on his sleeve.

He has a high-functioning autism, possibly Asperger’s making him more “different” especially with the kids from school. Some are cruel to him but he eventually got used and grown into it. With his trusty journal that he filled with his daily observations, he also has a list of people to help him remember who are “good” and “bad”.

I honestly can’t remember if I’ve ever read a book tackling the subject of autism but what I’m sure of in reading about it here is that the author was able to capture the struggles of having it realistically.  We saw it on David’s POV and even saw it on how his parents and sister have treated him. This story also taught me that the autism spectrum is multidimensional, not linear. There are different kinds of it that sometimes can’t be seen with bare eyes. Aside from those, it also made me realize just how cruel society sometimes can be especially to people like David who are nothing but intelligent and kind but was treated as weird and with endless judgement just because he has autism.

But overall the story, I love David’s blunt honesty, awkwardness and geekiness. I appreciate the knowledge that he shared about Quantum Mechanics. *wink*

“I realize we all walk around pretending we have some control over our fate, because to recognize the truth-that no matter what we do, the bottom will fall out when we least expect it-is just too unbearable to live with.”

Kit is having a hard time dealing with grief. Her father tragically dies in a car accident over a month ago, and she’s grieving in her own way. With this grief, Kit begins to shut down everyone – her friends and even her mom.

She’s a mystery. That’s my initial impression of her. She doesn’t speak much about her past but I do know it has something to do on how she’s acting at the present. She’s really a tough character who barely cried during her father’s death. As a daughter who is closer to her father as well, I hurt and still hurting for Kit’s loss.

Being on the top of the social ladder on their school, it was a surprise for David and everyone at school when Kit sits by David every lunch time. They barely talk at first until David begins talking about Quantum Mechanics and from there begins an unlikely friendship.

Of course, this friendship is not all rainbows and flowers. They are both keepers of things to themselves and it took them sometime to open to one another, but as the pages go forward – seeing their friendship unfolds and blossom into something more, it was beautiful to read. They fit well together despite their differences.

Aside from David and Kit, the secondary characters are well written as well. There is David’s sister and parents and Kit’s friends – whom I thought would bash her out after leaving them but instead waited for her to grieve on her own way and will be there for Kit with arms wide open.

As typical of Julie Buxbaum, the writing flowed smoothly. Each chapter was quick to read and the thoughts are straightforward. I love the dual POV as we get to read what is inside David and Kit’s thoughts. There is a romance part of course, it was cute and swoony but it is not the highlight of the story. It was presented in a very subtle way for me. The story has deep issues – death, autism and grief –  it was handled seriously but there is no dark and depressing tone into it which is like a magic in writing.

Of course, revelation/climax part. At around 45% of reading, secrets are being unveiled. I do have hints here and there but it still surprised me in a way.

“Unimaginably bad things happened. We are left to choose whether to grow or to wither. To forgive or to fester. I’m going to choose to grow and forgive, for both myself and my mom.”

In just 300 pages or so, the story was able to explore the complexity of life and death and accepting the changes the life has given us. It packs a lot of lessons and emotions so get yourself ready as you read this.

This is probably one of the longest review I’ve written and it feels like my thoughts are everywhere, but please do yourselves a big favor and pick-up this book and other books by Julie Buxbaum. You will not regret it.

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