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The Things I Didn't Say
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Sara Penny | 86 comments Mod
Hi everyone :) I hope you all enjoyed our June read; I zipped through it in typical YA fashion.
Kate is off enjoying herself in NYC so I've come up with some discussion questions for The Things I Didn't Say.


Sara Penny | 86 comments Mod
DISCUSSION QUESTION #1 What did you think of our main character, Piper? Can you relate to her challenges?


Sara Penny | 86 comments Mod
DISCUSSION QUESTION #2 What do you think Mr Lyons hoped the students would achieve from the tree email assignment?


Sara Penny | 86 comments Mod
DISCUSSION QUESTION #3 Do you think Piper's relationship with West helped or hindered the anxiety fuelling her Selective Mutism?


Sara Penny | 86 comments Mod
DISCUSSION QUESTION #4 Going by the reviews, this seems to be an accurate portrayal of Selective Mutism. Why do you think the author wrote this? What is her most important message?


Sara Penny | 86 comments Mod
DISCUSSION QUESTION #5 Were you satisfied with the ending?


Claire (cmoo053) Sara wrote: "DISCUSSION QUESTION #1 What did you think of our main character, Piper? Can you relate to her challenges?"

I was interested by Piper. I enjoyed being able to read about selective mutism, which was an issue I didn't really know a lot about. I think as a character, Piper was a solid vehicle for raising awareness of the issue, and creating a better understanding of it. Personally, at times I felt she lacked a little depth. Her comments about her challenges were often superficial- which is perhaps realistic from a teenage perspective, but I thought that aspect was something that could have been explored further. What I liked most about Piper, was that her challenges really were universal although her response was not. Especially as teenagers, I think most people can relate to the feeling of pressure to express yourself perfectly, and the sense that others are judging our every move. As a secondary school teacher, I could certainly see how my students would relate to a lot of the adolescent emotions that Piper dealt with throughout the novel.


Claire (cmoo053) Sara wrote: "DISCUSSION QUESTION #2 What do you think Mr Lyons hoped the students would achieve from the tree email assignment?"

I quite liked this assignment (again from the teacher perspective)- did this project really happen in Melbourne?
I thought it was interesting that it came from a Geo class- I guess Mr Lyons was hoping to connect the students with elements of nature, and in building that personal connection- create a greater sense of investment in environmental preservation.
As an English teacher, I think it would be a great assignment to help students develop original ideas, and to develop their writing in a forum that is essentially very private.


Claire (cmoo053) Sara wrote: "DISCUSSION QUESTION #3 Do you think Piper's relationship with West helped or hindered the anxiety fuelling her Selective Mutism?"

I don't know whether this is really how Fornasier intended it, but the way I read the novel, I saw this relationship as hindering Piper's anxiety. It seemed that her intense feelings for West made her feel greater pressure to make that leap to communicate verbally with him, and that pressure made it harder for her to do so. This impression was largely formed from the number of times throughout the novel, that Piper mentioned being able to communicate with other close friends like Cassie, but not with West. She seemed to be putting herself under a lot of pressure. I think West also, unintentionally, pressured Piper to make that leap as well. Most times, he seemed to think he was being encouraging and loving, but her response was distress.
I felt the end section of the novel was supposed to suggest that Piper's relationship with West ultimately helped Piper to overcome her selective mutism in a broader sense, but I didn't feel this was overly well-conveyed.


Claire (cmoo053) Sara wrote: "DISCUSSION QUESTION #4 Going by the reviews, this seems to be an accurate portrayal of Selective Mutism. Why do you think the author wrote this? What is her most important message?"

I'm glad to hear this is an accurate portrayal. What I liked most is that this book seemed to deal in a very real way with the issue. My impression from what I've read about the book/author online, is that the intention of the book is to create greater awareness or understanding of the issue. I think the most important message we can take from this, is to never assume we understand why, and to never assume that people can overcome challenges just by deciding to. I was quite impressed with the engaging and real way these messages were developed in the novel.


Claire (cmoo053) Sara wrote: "DISCUSSION QUESTION #5 Were you satisfied with the ending?"

I actually felt that the ending of the novel was the weakest part. I felt that after Piper and West split up, the narrative succumbed a little to adolescent cliche, which detracted from some of the earlier effectiveness of the novel (although I can see how these cliches would really appeal to the adolescent audience). I felt a lot of the good work done developing our understanding of selective mutism was undone, by Piper's overcoming of this challenge at the end. Although didn't experience a complete "recovery" her increased confidence was somewhat unexplained, and felt a little convenient at times.


message 12: by Sarah (last edited Jul 03, 2016 11:25PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sarah Claire wrote: "Sara wrote: "DISCUSSION QUESTION #1 What did you think of our main character, Piper? Can you relate to her challenges?"
As a secondary school teacher, I could certainly see how my students would relate to a lot of the adolescent emotions that Piper dealt with throughout the novel


Agreed, I'm also a secondary school teacher, and it was interesting to read about an issue that is starting to appear in schools and from that perspective I think it was a really important story to be told as I imagine it is quite a misunderstood condition. My experience of students with SM is that they are much more socially isolated than Piper was, and I was surprised yet pleased to read that this was a fairly accurate portrayal of the condition in that people with SM do have "normal" friendships and relationships, albeit with difficulties. It also made me reflect on how I've tried to involve students who don't speak much more into the classroom discourse, when maybe I'm just fueling their anxiety! There were moments in the book where I got really frustrated and thought "If this means so much to you, then use your voice!", but as you say we can't and shouldn't assume that it is as easy as that, and the book helped me to be more understanding in that sense.


Sarah Sara wrote: "DISCUSSION QUESTION #2 What do you think Mr Lyons hoped the students would achieve from the tree email assignment?"

Good question! I think what Claire said was correct, but I felt like a lot of the activities the students were doing for Year 12 were a bit ridiculous and entirely too easy - but that's just me with my teacher lens on and besides the point of the book. I think the activities the author created were more just a way to explore Piper's relationship with others more than having any academic rigour, haha!


Sarah Sara wrote: "DISCUSSION QUESTION #3 Do you think Piper's relationship with West helped or hindered the anxiety fuelling her Selective Mutism?"

I think both at the end of the day. I think West's own anxieties about Piper not talking to him were perfectly natural. He had been patient and open to her and her needs, but over time I could understand he could be hurt, especially when he overheard her talking to her family yet still she couldn't talk to him, even though the depth of feeling seemed to be there. At the end of the day, the relationship forced her to face some of the issues that her SM presents and try to work through them, which she seemed to getting to towards the end.


Sarah Sara wrote: "DISCUSSION QUESTION #5 Were you satisfied with the ending?"

The E-reader I was using to read this didn't have the pages numbers for some reason, so I was shocked when I turned the page to realise it was the end of the book! I really enjoyed the read, but the message with the end was a bit like "resolved, the end!" when in reality I think there should be a lot more depth to it than that. Something just felt like it was missing anyway, I was left wanting more.


Claire (cmoo053) Sarah wrote: "Sara wrote: "DISCUSSION QUESTION #5 Were you satisfied with the ending?"

The E-reader I was using to read this didn't have the pages numbers for some reason, so I was shocked when I turned the pag..."


I totally agree, it was a bit too "all perfectly wrapped up"


message 17: by Sara (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sara Penny | 86 comments Mod
Claire wrote: "Sara wrote: "DISCUSSION QUESTION #2 What do you think Mr Lyons hoped the students would achieve from the tree email assignment?"

I quite liked this assignment (again from the teacher perspective)-..."


I had a look into it and it looks like it was a real project! :)

I think it served a little as a replacement for Piper's journal, especially as an outlet when West was in hospital.


message 18: by Sara (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sara Penny | 86 comments Mod
Claire wrote: "Sara wrote: "DISCUSSION QUESTION #3 Do you think Piper's relationship with West helped or hindered the anxiety fuelling her Selective Mutism?"

I don't know whether this is really how Fornasier int..."


I agree. I'm sure the author didn't intend for it to come across that way, but it did seem to put more strain on Piper and increase her anxiety.
On her road trip we saw her starting to overcome her SM and speak to strangers, and it seemed like she was drawing strength from doing it *for* West, whereas if they had taken the road trip together as planned I don't think she would have had that push.


message 19: by Sara (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sara Penny | 86 comments Mod
Sarah wrote: "Sara wrote: "DISCUSSION QUESTION #5 Were you satisfied with the ending?"

The E-reader I was using to read this didn't have the pages numbers for some reason, so I was shocked when I turned the pag..."


My ebook was the same! I thought surely there would be a conclusion chapter.
I'm not sure how I felt about that dream Piper had about the planting of their trees; was it supposed to hold some significance?


Sarah Agreed, maybe it was meant to signify that West and Piper were meant to be together? It was a weak metaphor, whatever it was trying to do!


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