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Things You Can't Say

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Perfect for fans of See You in the Cosmos and The Science of Breakable Things, author Jenn Bishop tells the moving story of a boy determined to uncover the truth.

Nothing is going right this summer for Drew. And after losing his dad unexpectedly three years ago, Drew knows a lot about things not going right. First, it’s the new girl Audrey taking over everything at the library, Drew’s sacred space. Then it’s his best friend, Filipe, pulling away from him. But most upsetting has to be the mysterious man who is suddenly staying with Drew’s family. An old friend of Mom’s? Drew isn’t buying that.

With an unlikely ally in Audrey, he’s determined to get to the bottom of who this man really is. The thing is, there are some fears—like what if the person you thought was your dad actually wasn’t—that you can’t speak out loud, not to anyone. At least that’s what Drew thinks.

But then again, first impressions can be deceiving.

336 pages, Hardcover

First published March 3, 2020

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About the author

Jenn Bishop

5 books214 followers
Jenn Bishop is the author of the middle-grade novels Things You Can’t Say, 14 Hollow Road, and The Distance to Home. She grew up in Massachusetts and as a college student spent one incredible summer in Wyoming. She has been obsessed with bison ever since. After working as a children’s librarian, she received her MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Jenn currently calls Cincinnati, Ohio, home. Visit her online at jennbishop.com.

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5 stars
189 (40%)
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206 (43%)
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66 (14%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 111 reviews
Profile Image for Abby Cooper.
Author 9 books163 followers
June 2, 2022
I adored this sensitive story about Drew. He's having a tough summer for a variety of reasons, and a new girl barging into his safe space (the public library - YAY libraries!) doesn't help. Bishop brings her usual humor and heart to this impactful novel about family, friendship, and loss. An important, necessary book that I believe should be on all library shelves.
Profile Image for Victoria Coe.
Author 9 books97 followers
December 4, 2019
Things You Can't Say by Jenn Bishop is a heartfelt, moving story of a boy dealing with adolescence in the wake of his father's suicide. It's summer and Drew finds refuge by helping out at the public library, as he's done for the past three summers. But when his "sandbox friendship" with Felipe hits a rough patch, he starts to wonder if the new girl at the library - who at first is possibly invading his territory - is the only one he can talk to. Unfortuntely, the one thing Drew can't say to Audrey is what happened to his dad.
Everything gets complicated when an "old friend" of Drew's mom arrives unexpectedly and seems to make their family of 3 a family of 4 again. Drew has his suspicions about Phil and his reasons for the unannounced visit and he and Audrey are on the case. But when their investigations uncover information Drew is not ready for, he has to find a strength he never knew he had.
This beautiful, introspective story will touch the hearts of many middle grade readers, whether they've experienced loss personally or not. It will show them the importance of being open to others and empathetic to friends who might be hurting. Highly recommend!
I received an advance reader copy in return for an honest review.
Profile Image for Richie Partington.
1,077 reviews123 followers
October 20, 2020
Richie’s Picks: THINGS YOU CAN’T SAY by Jenn Bishop, Simon & Schuster/Aladdin, March 2020, 336p., ISBN: 978-1-5344-4097-5

“Do you wake up one day wanting to kill yourself? Or is it something you think about first? For days, weeks, months. Years?”

“Questions, questions, questions, flooding into the mind of the concerned young person today. Ahh, but it’s a great time to be alive, ladies and gentlemen, and that’s the theme of our program tonight.”
-- from Frank Zappa, “Call Any Vegetable” (1971)

“Scientists believe that as many as 40 percent of those with depression can trace it to a genetic link. Environmental and other factors make up the other 60 percent…
The question remains: Should someone whose parent or sibling suffers from depression be worried? The answer: Not necessarily. Situational depression is often only temporary. It is brought on by major life events, and treatment is available. It is certainly something to watch out for, but not something to worry about.”
-- Stephanie Faris in Healthline.com, “Is Depression Genetic?”

“The thing is, the library is supposed to be my place. That first summer after Dad died, Mom signed me up for summer camp at the Rec. Same one Filipe and I had been going to since we were in kindergarten. But every day, I barely made it through the first half hour before I lost it--I’d puke--and Mom had to come pick me up.
It wasn’t that I was actually sick. It was more that after what happened with Dad, I couldn’t handle being away from my mom. Didn’t really trust anyone anymore. How could I? Camp was eight hours long, but those eight hours felt like eight years. I’d done story hour with Mrs. Eisenberg when I was little and she told Mom she didn’t mind watching me. There were plenty of other kids whose parents ‘took advantage’ of her already, and I wasn’t half as much trouble as they were.
Mom probably thought it’d just be for a week. That after a few days with an old lady like Mrs. Eisenberg, I’d be dying to be back at camp with all the other kids my age.
But I wasn’t. I loved hanging out down there, helping with the little kids, knowing that Mom was just upstairs. For the first time since Dad died, I felt safe. A few days turned into a week, turned into three summers now. Mrs. Eisenberg says she can start paying me next summer as part of the page-in-training-program.”

Drew’s mom works at the public library’s reference desk. This has permitted Drew to spend years of summer days contentedly hanging out downstairs in the library’s children’s room. Not only does he feel safe, but he’s discovered his ability to creatively entertain the little kids with his wacky story hour routines that feature puppets and zombie twists on classic tales like Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

But suddenly there is a girl--another rising seventh grader--infringing on his scene. Audrey is the daughter of a newly-hired library employee and she’s also going to spend the summer helping out in the children’s room. She immediately shows off some crackerjack tech skills, updating the frequently-crashing browsers for Mrs. Eisenberg.

How will the summer play out now? Is there enough room in the children’s room for the two young people to work together?

Audrey’s presence turns out to be the less startling change this summer. Days later, an old high school friend of Drew’s mom shows up at their house, on his motorcycle, for a visit. Since his dad died, Drew’s been the “man of the house.” What’s the deal with this intruder who promptly starts cooking, mowing, and trying to buddy up to Drew?

It turns out that Audrey and Drew are a great support system for one another as they each face life upheavals, in this engaging coming-of-age tale for 9-12 year-olds. And it takes a librarian-turned-author to turn an inter-library loan into a pivotal moment!

How will Drew’s friendship with Audrey affect his lifelong connection with Filipe? Will Drew and Audrey eventually be more than friends? As they get to know each other, Drew occasionally wonders. Beyond a few brief hand grasps, nothing physical takes place. But there is an abundance of caring behavior that makes this a touching story for middle grade readers.

Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com
198 reviews5 followers
January 19, 2020
Thank you to the author for sharing an copy of Things You Can't Say with Collabookation.
From the cover to the last page, I loved reading Drew's story. When his father dies by suicide, Drew promises his grandmother that he'll be the man of the family~ and he stays true to this promise throughout his mother's debilitating grief and subsequent single motherhood. Drew is a good older brother, feeding and entertaining his little brother. But he is struggling with thoughts and feelings about his father's death and life. He can't help but wonder if all his good memories are really memories of his father faking his way through life.
I cannot speak to the thoughts and feelings after a close relative dies by suicide. But I can relate firsthand to Drew's questions about his father and why he would make the choice to leave his family. This book broke my heart, but could heal someone else's, for sure. Drew can't help but feel betrayed by his father, but in that feeling he also feels as though he is betraying him. When Drew finds himself wishing he had a different father, I couldn't help but feel as though that could solve some of his heartbreak.
So many things to love about this book. I especially recommend it for those introspective and empathetic readers who love character-driven stories. I fell in love with Drew and his vulnerability from the first page.
444 reviews19 followers
August 8, 2019
Things You Can't Say is a great story about things you must say, even when they are challenging. Great message for young people, especially boys.
Drew is a thoughtful guy, trying to take on a lot since the death of his father. At an age when several relationships are getting confusing, Drew has more feelings to figure out than most kids. How can a 12 year old figure out the world when so few things are going the way they are supposed to? Drew discovers he can't do it with his thoughts alone.
Thanks to author Jenn Bishop for sending a copy to my ARC sharing group, Book Portage, so I could learn about this book which releases in March. This will be a book I want to share with other teachers and students.
Profile Image for Robin Kirk.
Author 29 books64 followers
August 24, 2019
This is such a lovely read. Drew is really struggling with losing a parent to suicide. When a mysterious old friend of his mother's comes to stay, he's beset by questions about his family. Bishop handles this tender story with great skill, drawing us into a very real and painful growing up that ultimately ends on a satisfyingly positive note.
Profile Image for Kathie.
Author 2 books64 followers
August 25, 2019
Thank you to the author for sending #bookportage an ARC of this book.

This is a great story about one boy’s attempt to come to terms with his dad’s suicide, and the feelings he’s kept bottled up inside that gnaw away at him. I will absolutely add this book to our library’s collection in the spring for many reasons, including the fact I couldn’t put it down.
Profile Image for Autumn Krause.
Author 4 books265 followers
October 23, 2018
I was able to read this book prior to publication and Bishop does not disappoint! I loved this searingly moving story and the ways it handles hard topics in an accessible way for the middle grade audience.
1,403 reviews3 followers
October 18, 2019
Jenn Bishop does it again. A calm book about a difficult subject that we as adults too often don't want to think kids have to deal with. Well done characters, smooth plotting, and honest writing.
Profile Image for Almira.
544 reviews2 followers
March 14, 2021
Who knew that Goldilocks was a Zombie , or that Little Red Riding Hood was a vampire?
Well, if you are Drew and love doing puppet shows for the preschool age group summer programs, that's what you do......
Audrey is new to town, Mrs. Eisenberg, children's librarian, assigns Drew to "train" her in working with the children. WHAT???

It's been three years since Drew's dad commit suicide, which Drew doesn't discuss with Audrey, just that his dad is no longer around.
Been hard on his mom, who also works at the library, and his younger brother Xan (short for Xander), things are starting to be easier for all of them, when all of a sudden a "stranger" arrives at Drew's house on a Big "hummer" motorcycle, and Filipe, Drew's best friend since they were in kindergarten, is behaving strangely towards Drew.
What's going on in his mom's life, since she has never mentioned knowing this person, and all of a sudden invites him to spend a few days with them???????

Seems, Audrey is a computer "geek" and assists Drew in setting up a "fake" library account to order an inter-library loan book from Colorado to help answer some of Drew's questions.
Profile Image for Ms. B.
2,826 reviews35 followers
January 1, 2022
When Drew was nine, his Dad, James killed himself. Now three years later, his Mom's old high school friend Phil appears in town and Drew wonders why. Are Mom and Phil interested in each other? Or is it something else? What if Phil is really his Dad? Would life be better if Phil was really his Dad? What other secrets are Mom and Phil hiding? With the help of his new friend Audrey, Drew is determined to find the answers.
(IMO), this story about the effects of suicide on loved ones and the questioning of one's identity was done in a real and thoughtful way. Middle grade realistic fiction fans will enjoy this one.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
Author 3 books95 followers
September 10, 2019
I had the privilege of reading an earlier version of Jenn Bishop's THINGS YOU CAN'T SAY and now this advanced reader copy and WOW! I love this book so, so much. It tells the story of Drew and his big summer of change. After his father's death three years ago, it's just been Drew and his mom and little brother Xan. Drew has taken on a lot of responsibility- both at home and in his volunteer job at the library. The delicate, uneasy normalcy he's created for himself is threatened by the arrival of someone from his mom's past. I have loved all of Jenn's books, but I've got to say, this one might be my favorite. The way she's written sensitive, creative Drew, the way she's delved into grief and change, the growing friendship between Drew and new girl Audrey (and there are chickens and a county fair and Del's lemonade, and, and, and)...you are going to want this when it publishes in spring of next year. It's absolutely perfect for a middle grade reader.
Profile Image for Afoma (Reading Middle Grade).
535 reviews279 followers
March 21, 2021
I adored this book! It’s one of those books I quickly realized would be a struggle to review because all I want to do is gush and put this book in everyone’s hands. Another book with such a memorable protagonist and also about death and grief is The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise which I also adored. Things You Can’t Say is a thoughtful, realistic, and heartwarming (oh, so heartwarming) book about dealing with a parent’s suicide and changing friendships. If you’re looking for a book that emphasizes vulnerability in boy friendships, highlights cute sibling dynamics or set largely in a library, you’ll love this book!

Read my full review on the blog.
Profile Image for Katie Reilley.
775 reviews27 followers
August 17, 2019
Thank you to Jenn Bishop and Aladdin Publishing for sharing an ARC with our #bookexpedition group.

Drew’s had to grow up pretty quickly. After all, he lost his dad three years ago. But now his summer is off to a rough start. He’s always been a helper in the children’s section of the local library, but new girl Audrey (who’s AWFUL with kids) is invading his sacred space. Plus, he can’t really talk to his best friend Filipe about it, because Filipe is more interested in hanging out with older kids he knows from sports camps. But what’s most bothering Drew is the mystery man that his mom has invited to stay with his family while he makes a bike trip across the US.

With themes of family, friendship, and forgiveness, I’ll definitely preorder this one for my classroom library. Publishes in March 2020.
Profile Image for Debra.
576 reviews
August 4, 2021
What a beautiful story dealing with a most difficult topic: death of a parent. There are many books about student loss of family, but this one deals with suicide and manages to reveal and temper the emotions, questions, and worries that arise in a community, school, and family when there is a suicide.

Drew is a middle school student coping with friendship issues and changes while harboring much frustration, loneliness, and stress of the loss of his father to suicide three years earlier. The focus is not on the grief groups that so often follow a suicide, though the topic does come up a few times as Drew went to a group in his community. The focus is on his own fears for his own likeliness of suicide and his anger at the choice his father made.

There are some moments of doubt that there may be more to his life story than his mother revealed to him. There are many moments where Drew recognizes his little brother's experience is so different as his brother is younger and likely has few memories of their father. (Child Development majors will love this aspect as it rings so true and I appreciated that.)

Drew spends his summers at the library where his Mom works. He volunteers in the Youth Department while she works upstairs. He is a natural with the children and helps with crafts and storytimes at the puppet theatre. He is bothered that another volunteer appears and intends to not befriend her. The growth of their friendship is wonderful as much as the changes in Drew's past friendships is expected. I like the way they are both handled and I felt so much a part of Drew's summer that I could not put this book down until I knew how his issues get resolved.

You will cherish the time you spend with Drew, his family, and his friends. I certainly did.

I cannot put into words how much the Author's Note and support programs affected me as this book should not stand alone and having resources is necessary. THANK YOU, Jenn Bishop!
Profile Image for Shawn.
681 reviews5 followers
June 13, 2022
Drew's summer is off to a rough start. First, a new "helper" shows up in the children's department at the library where he volunteers for story time. She seems to be a standoffish know-it-all and this invasion of his place of solitude is definitely a disruption. His neighbor/best friend suddenly starts hanging out with an older, cooler kid from school. An "old friend" (Phil) of his mom's just happens to be passing through town on his motorcycle and invades Drew's home space by sleeping on the couch. And always in the back of Drew's mind, he wonders if he has a gene inside him that will one day make him do what his dad did - take his own life.

When Drew overhears his mom and Phil talking, he wonders if there is more to their relationship than just being old pals. Could Phil be his real dad? With help from an adversary-turned-friend, Drew sets out to find out just who Phil is, and if the truth will change the fate of his future.

The book addresses the topic of suicide gently without glossing over the difficulty and emotions that are left in its wake. It also touches on the importance of mental health and getting help.

In the beginning, the reader's heart is broken a little while learning about Drew's struggles, but as Drew gets the answers he seeks and new relationships are forged, the healing begins.
Profile Image for Thomas Bell.
1,367 reviews9 followers
October 4, 2020
Wow, what a good book. Many books try to tackle a lot of issues, but this one does a good job of it. You could say it's about grieving. You could say it's about friendship. You could say it's about growing up. And you would be right. But...

I believe this book is about communication. Andrew is trying to understand whom he can talk to and why or why not. The author clearly realizes this, hence the title. But she did an excellent job of it, teaching us while Andrew learns himself.

I try to get ahead on the Newbery picks each year, and I must say that I hope this book wins or at least gets an honor. The message is timeless.
Profile Image for Colin Bischoff.
136 reviews2 followers
March 6, 2020
Jenn Bishop provides a nuanced view inside the head of Drew, who is struggling with the uncertainty of growing up plus a heavy dose of family trauma. She really nails the ingrained tendency for boys (of any age!) to try to struggle through on their own, and the growth and healing that can occur when they work up the courage to open up. This might make it sound like a heavy-handed afterschool special, but the story pulls you along with both suspense and light-hearted moments.
Profile Image for Pam  Page.
1,158 reviews
April 16, 2020
Suicide is a tough topic in kids' books. A parent's suicide is even more difficult. Yet, Jenn Bishop wrote a story that will create empathy and may help children who have encountered Drew's situation. I thought the ending with Drew's friend shows the rippling effect of suicide, the far-reaching impact, and the benefits of forgiveness. Such a powerful story. Thanks, Jenn Bishop, for "speaking" to so many in need of this book!
Profile Image for Abby Johnson.
3,373 reviews309 followers
March 23, 2020
A poignant look at one boy's life as things are changing in his family after his dad's suicide. This is definitely a book that validates the emotional life of boys as Drew navigates changing friendships and his mom's new male friend and life without a father at the time in his life when a father might be able to answer some questions for him.
Profile Image for Melissa.
667 reviews9 followers
July 17, 2020
Love Drew! What a real and vulnerable character. I was feeling for him even more throughout the Phil-mystery-possibility. Great story to generate compassion and empathy and a good discussion starter for the hard topic of suicide.
Profile Image for Steph.
4,394 reviews45 followers
May 15, 2022
What a delicate way to handle such a difficult topic and seamlessly merge in feelings of regret, confusion, anger, and grief all from the point of view of a boy still trying to manage “regular” life things like friendship, school, and crushes.

Jenn Bishop nails it yet again.
Profile Image for Jayne Bartrand.
585 reviews1 follower
January 23, 2021
MG book-feels are the best❤️This is a great read. I love the supporting cast of characters as Drew navigates the tragedy of losing his dad to suicide. I wish all struggling kids had such support; books like this give the reader a chance to learn from the helpers.
Profile Image for Rhonda K.
252 reviews1 follower
January 8, 2023
High ratings just for mentioning interlibrary loans and other library-centric stuff. But seriously, a good book for middle schoolers that deals with some sensitive topics in a realistic way. 300+ pages.
Profile Image for Cindy Mitchell *Kiss the Book*.
6,001 reviews181 followers
June 12, 2020
Things You Can’t Say by Jenn Bishop, 321 pages. Aladdin (Simon), 2020. $18.

Content: G



For three long years Drew, 12yo, has had to deal with his Dad’s suicide. His saving grace has been the long summers helping out in the children’s room of the public library where his mom works. Then a new girl invades his space – who does she think she is? Then he gets in a fight with his supposed best friend and they aren’t speaking to each other. Then a supposed old friend of his mom shows up at their doorstep unannounced. They seem pretty cozy with each other – is this a new man in her life? Drew is resistant to this guy, but also intrigued – what if this guy is really his dad? In the back of his heart he thinks that might be better.

Lucky, lucky me – another good book about a boy dealing with a big problem. I love that Drew changes every picture book for story time into a zombie story! Also deftly looks at the changing nature of friendships.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS
Displaying 1 - 30 of 111 reviews

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