Book Review: What To Say Next

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I put off picking up this book, despite many rave reviews from readers I trust and respect, because I didn’t love Tell Me Three Things by the same author, but I am so glad I finally gave it a chance.

This story was heartwarming and heartbreaking throughout the whole book. Like Tell Me Three Things, this book deals with grief and the loss of a parent. The strong emotions and complexities of the characters in this story were fully bloomed. The subtle tone of pain and loss seeped into my heart as I read so quietly that my investment in the characters snuck up on me, which created a rich and rewarding reading experience.

What To Say Next is told from alternating points of view between Kit and David. Although classmates, the two have never spoken before until one day when Kit, in an attempt to avoid her well meaning but misguided group of friends, sits with David at lunch. Both are struggling to navigate their worlds, which are complicated and painful and seem to be so completely out of their control. This sense of loss and being lost bring the two together. David's voice and perspectives are beautiful. Kit is complicated and relatable. When I finished this book I missed these characters. I also want to say, I would not call this a light hearted book. While it is funny and beautiful it is also devastatingly sad. What To Say Next will remind you how horrible high school can be and also show you that mathematics and quantum mechanics can be incredibly romantic.

Is this an unlikely friendship story? Kind of.

Is this a love story? Definitely.

But most importantly, it is a story of the value of honesty, the significance of vulnerability, and the unmatched power of empathy. 

“you’re an idiom,” she says, and at first my stomach drops—she is making fun of me—but then I look up and she she’s wearing a friendly smile. This is good teasing, I think. This is banter, like in the old romantic comedies...I’ve never been much good at banter, which necessarily requires quick wit and an understanding of what to say next.
— David, What To Say Next, page 41-42

Rating: 4/5

Mood: Swimming against the current-exhausting and difficult, but worth for the relief of making it to shore. 

For fans of: Turtles All the Way Down, Zenn Diagram, and Our Chemical Hearts.

Suddenly I look around and see everyone talking and laughing, no less than two feet away from me, and they feel miles away. We are all strangers to each other in the end. Turns out grief not only morphs time, but space too. Somehow increases the distance between you and other people.
— Kit, What To Say Next, page 75.