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What They Always Tell Us

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  4,848 ratings  ·  368 reviews
JAMES AND ALEX have barely anything in common anymore—least of all their experiences in high school, where James is a popular senior and Alex is suddenly an outcast. But at home, there is Henry, the precocious 10-year-old across the street, who eagerly befriends them both. And when Alex takes up running, there is James's friend Nathen, who unites the brothers in moving and ...more
Hardcover, 293 pages
Published August 12th 2008 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
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Average rating 3.93  · 
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 ·  4,848 ratings  ·  368 reviews

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Aug 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Nancy by: Thomas
Cross-posted at Shelf Inflicted and at Outlaw Reviews

What They Always Tell Us is a very simple, quiet story told from the perspective of two brothers who live in Alabama. James is a high school senior. Even though he’s smart, has lots of friends, and is on the tennis team, the only thing he wants is to go to college and leave Alabama. Alex, a junior, is James’ younger brother. While he’s not as smart, athletic, or as popular as James, he has other qualities that James lacks – Alex is sensitive,
Apr 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
What They Always Tell Us is about two brothers, James and Alex, who are unlike each other in many ways - James is outgoing and popular, while Alex is compassionate and reserved. After Alex attempts to take his life at a party, James is left wondering what went wrong. Then, Alex meets James's friend Nathan, and the two form a friendship that could grown into something more.

This book is simple and stunning. As of May 2011, even after two years, it remains one of the best books I've ever read and m
Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘

Sometimes we read books whose wicked plots and twists, while blatantly aimed to make us feel something, fail their purpose and sometimes, sometimes, we come across a quiet book which lead us to strong and real feelings.

What they always tell us is that kind of books, and that's why, even though I have issues I can't overtake, lowering my rating below 3 stars wouldn't be fair in my opinion. I mean, I ate it up for fuck sake! Indeed contrary to many readers, my main problem wasn't the pacing, beca
Sep 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I’m going to shamelessly steal an idea from this book to describe how I feel about this story.

You know when you’re younger (Or, OK, when you’re not so young if you’re anything like me) and you’re on a set of swings in your back garden? And I’m not talking about the swings in the park that are properly secured with cement or whatever they use. These are the ones your dad put up in the summer when he’d had a bit too much Carlsberg and he was drunk on burgers.

And, while you’re mid-swing, there’s th
Rosalinda *KRASNORADA*
Nov 12, 2017 rated it really liked it

This book reminded me of one of my fave songs from Vetusta Morla

There is this part that says 'fue tan largo el duelo que al final, casi lo confundo con mi hogar' and it's soooo fitting because that's how Alex, one of the MCs, feels for most of the book but no worries amig@s because this is not one of those sad stories I usually read. This one taught me that there is light at the end of the tunnel, you can fight depression guys and if you try hard enough yo
Sep 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
Audible headphones_icon_1

It is my third book in a row that I rated with 5 stars, and I am a bit confused of myself. But I don't think that I became less demanding, maybe I just LEARNED to filter books that appeal to me. Or maybe I have just a lucky hand to chose the right books for me.

Of course a story about two brothers, James and Alex, is the main story-line in this book, but it is in the first place a beautifully written wonderful story of growing up, discovering yourself, learning to come out of the
Merphy Napier
Jun 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
This story is more about characters growing into better versions of themselves more than it's about any sort of plot - so I recommend this for character driven readers.

Extremely real and likable characters with very realistic and heartwarming growth.

The true downfall with this story is the sloppy plot. Alex's plot line was beautifully done for the most part but there were a lot of different threads that are focused on throughout the story and in the end, they didn't all connect or even come to a
Apr 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYONE!
This is a great book dealing with depression, suicide attempts, and sexuality. However, it deals with so much more like compassion, relationships between brothers, social expectations, rumors, fear, and social posturing. I am not sure I can really describe exactly how well this books delves into a young persons psyche just trust me it does it well.

Told in alternating chapters between 2 brothers (1 year apart) dealing with the attempted suicide of the younger brother. This book is NOT heavy han
Apr 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book several years ago -- before I knew about MM romance and just got acquainted with LGBT fiction. I haven't had the chance to read it because well, no romance made it less appealing. Until now, when I got bored with what published MM titles could offer ...

This story is WONDERFUL. It follows the life of two brothers:

Alex, the younger one, who feels alienated and lonely and different. His friends look at him as loser, after he drank a bottle of Pine-Sol at a party. And James, the
Oct 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is probably the best book I have every read about growing up--at least the most similar to how I grew up. It is a story of two brothers who both have to deal with repercussions of one night and the trickle effect it has on their entire life from high school to the family to themselves.

I think what I loved most was that neither brother was a simple character but they each surprised me in how clearly well rounded they were. I think it is very hard to not to rely on high school stereotypes but
Tyler Goodson
Oct 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: six-stars, ya-mg
Some books take you somewhere outside yourself, someplace you couldn't have imagined. Other books know you. This is one of those. I've been to these places, I've known these people. They are me. I started this morning, and if this review were written in a letter the paper would be tear stained and the ink would be running I've cried so many times. Reading this was restorative, like I've been watching one long episode of Oprah, only better. I'm ready to live my best life now or something. Read it ...more
Mar 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: srzbznz
It's hard for me to read books about bullying, so I'll have to put a disclaimer right here that I'm not at my most objective (insofar as a person can be objective when expressing an opinion) about it.

The book revolves around two brothers: Alex, who survived an attempted suicide some time before the beginning of the book and became a social outcast and his brother James, a popular senior who's guilty for not being there for Alex and at the same time disdaining him as a dork.

The true strength in t
Normally when I read books I cycle through about five or so until I find one that really consumes me. I will then focus on that book until I have exhausted its pages and digested the plot. With this novel, it took me a while to finally admit to myself that I was engrossed in the story. Such is the subtlety of this brilliant novel that you are pulled in immediately and only later does it hit you that you have been invested all along.

Alex is a quiet boy who shatters his family's complacent securit
This was sweet. Really liked it.

As always, I will first discuss the characters. Alex was a sweetie, and I loved him. James, to be perfectly honest, was kind of a dick at first, but he went through a shit ton of character development and I grew to like him. I also really liked Nathen and Alice.

It's amazing that not much happens plot-wise and yet I was never bored. There's no exciting action or adventure, it's just a glimpse into the lives of some high school students trying to live and love. It'
Jun 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Originally reviewed on The Book Smugglers: HERE

What They Always Tell Us is a wonderful, beautiful story about two brothers who were once very close, then drifted apart and slowly find their way to each other. The story is told in alternating chapters from each brother’s perspective and it follows both throughout this one year in their lives.

Alex is the youngest one, the quiet, solitary brother who’s been dealing with the repercussions of drinking Pine Sol one day at a party and ending up in hosp
May 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbtq, fiction, memorable
As I told my friend just as I had finished it, I found this book to be "probably the most boring good book I've ever read."

Okay, maybe that was a little ridiculous of me. But seriously, the plot-line is... Undramatic.

But I loved it. The smooth, quiet writing. The flawed characters and their struggles in growing up. This is a true coming of age novel.

Alex and James are two teenage brothers, both struggling to survive in the small town of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Told in the third person, alternatin
William Cooper
Oct 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
What They Always Tell us is told from two point of views. Alex, the younger brother, who is a social outcast after he makes a mistake at a party and James, the older brother, who is mister popularity. The boys used to be close when they were younger, but ever since Alex's mistake, they've grown apart. The novel follows the two boys relationship with each other and Alex's friendship with Nathen - his brothers friend - and Henry, the strange boy across the street.

I absolutely loved this novel! It
Will Walton
Oct 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The more I replay these scenes through my head, the more miraculous to me they seem. This book is an understated achievement. A true joy.
charlotte, (½ of readsrainbow)

Rep: gay mc with depression, biracial Indian American gay li

CWs: attempted suicide, car accident, casual racism & homophobia, homophobic slurs

I remembered my high school days reading this. But it's like seeing it in a different perspective, seeing the bigger picture. I thought of the countless moments of confusion, alienation, anger, frustration, bitterness, fear of the great unknown... multiplied to the nth hormonal level. Reflecting on it, I can see that many of us back then were fighting our own internal battles with each one of us trying to subdue it and keep it low key, thinking, "I must be a freak for feeling this."

I remember be

May 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book seemed to me to be an Ordinary People for a more self-aware age. Only in this case the brother is not lost but only almost lost. It seems that every author has a coming out story that they want to tell and this does indeed include one as well, but its more than than just that. Here the whole struggling with one's sexuality issue is actually more subdued and not the be-all and end-all that its presented as in so many other stories.

Being told from the viewpoint of both the younger and t
Dec 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
What They Always Tell Us is excellent. Incredible writing. I'm still in shock about how much I adored this book. James and Alex are brothers but you wouldn't think so, considering how different they are. Ever since Alex swallowed pine sol at a party, chugging it down like a beer, he became an outcast. Even his brother wasn't really Team Alex after the incident. James is the social one while Alex stands on the sidelines. Along comes Nathan, my personal favorite character!, and Alex's world is tur ...more
Ralph Gallagher
Aug 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Ralph Gallagher by: Thomas
What They Always Tell us is told from two point of views. Alex, the younger brother, who is a social outcast after he makes a mistake at a party and James, the older brother, who is mister popularity. The boys used to be close when they were younger, but ever since Alex's mistake, they've grown apart. The novel follows the two boys relationship with each other and Alex's friendship with Nathen - his brothers friend - and Henry, the strange boy across the street.

I absolutely loved this novel! It
Nov 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is truly beautiful, a must read for teenagers especially but for everyone really. The author takes up some really heavy subjects and handle them extremely well. There are so many things going on in this book but it never felt artificial. It's just everyday life told by the brothers Alex and James.
Alex struggles to come back from depression and suicide attempt while being shunned by almost everybody.
James struggles with his own feelings of shock, anger, helplessness and fear because of
Dec 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 3-star, contemporary, lgbt
Errgh. This book has such great characters and plot. Everything was really well thought out. I especially liked some of the minor characters. Everyone had a story. There were a lot of emotions covered in this book, and it was just really sweet. The only thing I didn't like, especially at he beginning, was the writing style. But it does get better, or at least you get used to it, one of the two, by the middle of the book, so if the writing really bothers you at the beginning of the book, push th ...more
Mel (who is deeply in love with herself)

Stunning in its sheer simplicity.

This is one man who understands-really UNDERSTANDS the life of a teenager.

No other author I'm aware of could have done it better. Martin Wilson manages to convey teen life, and not only conveys it, but also enhances the reader's comprehension of it.

I'm (luckily) still a teen myself, and I have never come across a book which has *nailed* a teenager's experience in this contradictory world so well.

Martin Wilson-I applaud you.

(Hopefully he's worki
Stephanie A.
Very Typical Teen Boys story, with a lot of drinking and partying and the inevitable reference to their junk, though thankfully not explicit about the fooling-around part. The present tense distanced me a bit, but there is a sweet little romance blossoming and along with a gradually mended relationship between the brothers. My favorite aspect was the quasi-friendship sparked between Alex and the 10-year-old next door, two lonely misfits. I loved their spontaneous big bro/little bro dynamic.
Leslie Nicoll
This book had been on my radar for quite a while—it was a Lambda Literary Award nominee in 2008 for Young Adult/Children’s Fiction—but I never got around to reading it. However, as I noted in my review of I’ll Get There. It Better Be Worth The Trip, there were three essays at the end, one of which was written by Martin Wilson. That spurred me on to picking up What They Always Tell Us and I am glad I finally did.

As I suspect everyone who reads my reviews knows, young adult books are my guilty ple
Selena Reiss
TW: off-page suicide attempt referenced, homophobia, F-slur, blackmail

3 stars maybe?

Usually when I give three star ratings, it’s because I was disappointed or couldn’t connect fully to the book. This is not that kind of three star book. It was a surprise because I wasn’t expecting to get attached at all.

Let’s talk about what this book is. It is a deeply character-driven, older YA contemporary focused on living with the characters and getting very small details in their life. It reminded me of Th
Jun 08, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: lgbtq
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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