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Words We Don't Say

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  447 ratings  ·  130 reviews
Joel Higgins has 901 unsent text messages saved on his phone.

Ever since the thing that happened, there are certain people he hasn't been able to talk to in person. Sure, he shows up at school, does his mandatory volunteer hours at the soup kitchen, and spends pretty much every moment thinking about Eli, the most amazing girl in the world. But that doesn't mean he's keeping
Hardcover, 279 pages
Published October 2nd 2018 by Disney-Hyperion
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Emily Matthys bennett I would definitely go with teen and up. Great story and I enjoyed it, but it would be a bit too heavy and maybe not as interesting for a younger reade…moreI would definitely go with teen and up. Great story and I enjoyed it, but it would be a bit too heavy and maybe not as interesting for a younger reader. (less)

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Average rating 3.85  · 
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Sep 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Joel Higgins undergoes a coming of age and social awakening while doing mandatory volunteer hours at a soup kitchen. Between pining for the girl he loves, communicating his thoughts through unsent text messages and building connections with the people served at the soup kitchen, Joel’s world shrinks into perspective in comparison with the world around him.

Dramatic, comedic, heart aching and sincere, WORDS WE DON’T SAY by K.J. Reilly is a chaotic journey through a teen boy’s mind as he traverses
Judy Beetem
Aug 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Words We Don't Say is my favorite book of all those I read and reviewed this summer. I wish I could give it more that 5 stars. K. J. Reilly does a fantastic job of capturing the language and technology of modern high school students. Joel is an angry seventeen-year-old. His best friend Andy is no longer in the picture - we find out why as the story progresses. Joel is working at the local soup kitchen accompanied by Eli , a girl he's loved since second grade, and Benj, an odd boy who supposedly ...more
Chandra Claypool (WhereTheReaderGrows)
This book begins in the middle of a shift at a soup kitchen. We are introduced to Joel and his many, MANY rambling thoughts and we are never taken out of his head space. Ever since "the thing that happened", he's been unable to talk to certain people. Instead, he drafts text messages to them and never sends them. (I actually tried and can't do this on my phone!)

I'll be honest, I am not the reader for this book. I like the unique premise and the unique writing style but at the end of the day, it
Aug 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
I think I might secretly be Joel Higgins! Joel writes, but doesn't send, text messages to people (alive and dead) because he just can never come right out and say the things he's thinking. He texts his beautiful friend Eli, his principal, and his recently deceased best friend Andy. Joel is just trying to make it through high school after his best friend has died. Those words, though left unsaid, may be what saves Joel.

Joel volunteers at a soup kitchen with Eli where Joel meets Rooster, a PTSD su
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: yallwest-2018
I love the message behind this book but the book itself was a drag to read. I’ve never been a huge fan of internal monologues, so when a book adopts that style to tell a story I’m instantly turned off to it. Way too many long winded run-on sentences!!

Mostly nothing happens. Many of the pages are things that don’t matter. The pages that DO matter were too on the nose—did you know many books are banned!? Did you know that lots of people die from drunk driving!? Did you know many homeless are veter
Marcia (Trendy Simple Life)
Oct 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc
OMG! I just Loved this book so much! I feel like I need to text all my friends and tell them that they need to read this book - although, unlike Joel Higgins, I will actually send all the texts.

The characters are so real. Our main character Joel is an anxious teenager, who happens to also be insecure and his thoughts fly at 100 miles a minute (oh, and he probably suffers from PTSD as well). We have Eli, the girl he's secretly in love with, but thinks that she's totally out of his league. There's
Jul 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Thanks to Netgalkey for the ARC! Joel Higgins is an interesting character. He saves most of his text messages instead of sending them and thinks of replies in his head while he says what people want to hear. While you might say that’s probably typical of a lot of teenagers, I say he’s still not typical. He thinks and feels so much as he is volunteering at a soup kitchen and struggling with the absence of his best friend and being a big brother and good son and teen in “strong like” with a fellow ...more
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Told with a laugh-out-loud, stream of consciousness style voice and quirky, unsent texts, this story touches on grief, unexpected friendship, community responsibility, faith, and long-suppressed crushes. It is sweet and adorable and heart-rending - just like I like my realistic fiction.
Oct 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Oh, wow.

RTC (my blog tour stop is on October 26!)
Aug 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
I didn’t expect much from this book. I only picked it up because it said a kid liked banned books, so duh I had to read it. This book is everything... the characters are diverse and have so much heart! The plot hits ptsd of veterans and kids with trauma, homelessness, loss, family and friendship with a little crush thrown in. This book definitely is one of the top young adult books I have read this year. Make sure to read the end of the acknowledgments. Made me tear up.
Apr 10, 2019 rated it liked it
I intended to give this two stars when I started reading. Then, about halfway through, Joel Higgins had an epiphany and so did I. I really liked this character. However, the constant use of the F expletive prevents me from giving anything higher than a 3. I hate to think teenagers talk like this all the time. Maybe they do. Maybe it's a sign of the coarsening of our society that this is considered acceptable. ...more
Oct 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“Mr. Monty called it a form of compounding, said it was a good thing, but later on Benj called it sequential worsening. I figured that Benj was right; things just started to get worse and worse once you made one mistake.”

Joel Higgins writes texts messages that he never intends on sending. Instead he saves them as drafts. Which is just as good, because one of the people he writes to is his best friend Andy, who isn’t here anymore, and to the girl he loves Eli, who doesn’t know he loves her, and t
I requested this ARC on Netgalley a while back, I think because I’d heard people mention it and I was intrigued by the summary. I actually read it before signing up for this blog tour, then signed up because I just loved it *so much*! I was taken aback by just how this book snuck up on me as I started reading, and how quickly I was sucked in by Joel’s engaging, funny, earnest voice. Telling this story in first person was a stroke of genius, because Joel is the kind of protagonist you are instant ...more
Feb 28, 2020 added it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Paige Green
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Disney Books/Hyperion and Rockstar Book Tours. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Rating: 4/5

Publication Date: October 2, 2018

Genre: YA Contemporary

Recommended Age: 15+ (PTSD, homelessness, inner monologues, pain)

Pages: 288

Amazon Link

Synopsis: Joel Higgins has 901 unsent text messages saved on his phone.

Ever since the thing that happened, there are certain people he hasn't been able to talk to in person. Sure, he shows up at school, does his mandatory
Kay Kuever
Oct 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
For as long as I can remember, I've been a journaler. My husband recently found an old journal of mine that had been written mostly during a largely transitional portion of my life. He found my rambling writing hilarious. I was mostly horrified by the whole experience. But, when he started asking me about why I seemed to write directly to myself on many of the pages I remembered how therapeutic that had been for me. Looking back on that journal that I have since stolen back and hidden more discr ...more
Aug 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
He was told that keeping a journal to vent out his feelings would help him get over the "thing" that happened, but why would he do something that "girly"? No, that absolutely IS NOT going to happen. So he sends text messages to people. Only, never sends them. So basically he types out the messages and saves them as "draft" to his phone. So basically, yeah, he keeps a journal.

Words We Don't Say is packed full of easy laughs and heart wrenching conversations. Joel is a junior in High School dealin
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I'm not sure if it's because of my age (adult) or life situation (frequently seeing homeless guys under bridges), but this book really resonated with me. There were several things I appreciated about it.

1. Mostly short chapters. I'll start with the surface. Books with short chapters are--arguably--easier to read. You can finish a chapter in just a few minutes, which means you don't feel like you have to set aside a big chunk of time in order to pick up the book. On the (somewhat) negative side,
Jen Solak
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is one of the most honest portrayals of teenage brains, especially an anxious one, and is SO spot on that I think teenagers will recognize themselves in the book and adults will see flashes of their past. It sounds cliche, but this book did make me laugh at parts and sob at parts. In fact, this book manages to deal with a LOT of issues without being cliche. Some topics covered are banned books, teachers, cancer, family dynamics, PTSD, treatment of veterans, homelessness, budgets, love, ...more
Sally Kruger
Wow! WORDS WE DON'T SAY has amazing characters, spot-on dialogue, and a powerful message. High school junior Joel Higgins is struggling with the recent loss of his best friend Andy. Life just doesn't seem worth living, but Joel keeps keeping on, looking for meaning somewhere.

Following Eli's example, I'm going to make a list of some of the awesome things in this book.

Joel's imperfect, but yet perfect, parents.
Joel's tender love for his younger brother, Jace.
Does God exist? Maybe...
Being two inche
Angela Gyurko
Jan 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Not since How I Live Now have a read a novel so well-written in what I like to call first-person panic. This perspective immerses the reader in Joel. His frantic, rambling words read authentically as a teenaged boy, although admittedly, I would have thought him closer to a sophomore than a junior, if only because that's when most of the teens in my personal universe took their driver's ed. The pace and language were distraught and overwrought and the only caution I can give is do not read this b ...more
helen baker
Aug 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
MY LORD. this book is AMAZING.

i think what's great about this book is that it covers SO MANY topics without really feeling overwhelming or annoying. there were a few times when it was slightly (and i mean VEERRRY slightly) overwhelming, but i also think that's sort of the point.

either way. this book is GREAT.

i could go on a fat rant about how wonderful this book is, but one of the main reasons (aside from covering so many topics that needed to be talked about, including homelessness, mental heal
Sarah  Bittel
Aug 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
A really interesting read in an interesting style. I liked the character development and I liked the way it was written. I felt like it is a story that will grab some of my students who like things that are a bit different. I also feel like the topics brought up and how we handle those things we can't say will really resonate with some of my students. I waited a while to start this but I am glad that I did eventually read it. Joel's character is one I won't quickly forget. Thank you netgalley fo ...more
Sep 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Part hilarious. Part mystery. Part drama. Part romance. Part learning opportunity.

I entered to win this book so I could give it to my stepdaughter. I thought she might like it based on the synopsis. I read it before giving it to her, and I don't want to give it up! This book was so good! It has so many elements; it keeps it interesting! And what a great way to teach teenagers the world is bigger than them, and just because there are bad things in life, doesn't mean life is all bad. I recommend
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ya, 2019
Holy Cow, this is one powerful book! There's humor and unrequited love and tragedy all wrapped up in one! Joel is a high school junior who is dealing with the typical high school problems...and more. He's coping with life by composing text messages bearing his heart and then saving them as drafts. For a mandatory volunteer project, he is working at a soup kitchen where he bonds with the homeless patrons and learning that problems are everywhere and sometimes people have more in common than what ...more
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I didn’t even like this book when I started in on it...I felt like it was odd, but not in a good way and then I kept going and I got the feel for the long ramblings of the protagonist who may be one of my favorites ever and I just realized that, all of a sudden, I was crying.

So, there. That’s my attempt to explain, in the style of this book, why I adored it and will run, not walk, to my computer to add it to books to be ordered for my Library!!! I will also be recommending it to students often
Laura Henderson
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really loved this book! This book was so touching to read all the unsent messages that Joel saves as drafts. He send messages to his Principal, Eli (the girl he likes) and his friend Andy. It was so real to see how he worked at the soup kitchen interacting with Veterans and having to deal with his raw emotions of anger. I think overall this book can be highly relateable. I super encourage this book to be read.
Dec 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Cathy
By utilizing both standard text and text messages which the main character never sends, we are able to see the grief, anxiety, humor, love and thoughtfulness that Joel rarely shows the outside world. I can't believe this is a debut novel because it has strong characters, plot, and writing and the author gets an A+ for resolution. I am planning to put this in the hands of every teenager I know. ...more
Wendy Lewis
Jan 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a very well-written book. A couple of times it felt like Joel was using words that didn't fit his age, but they were mostly part of his thoughts so it seemed plausible. I loved his family, they were wonderful and Benj was great, even before I knew why he had issues. I wasn't too keen on Eli, but that's a personal feeling and she didn't take away from the overall story.
The ending was very good and I had all the feels!
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