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I Can't Tell You Hardcover – October 25, 2005


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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 10 Up–During a huge fight with his best friend and college dorm-mate, Jake says something he cannot take back. As a result, he decides to communicate with everyone by writing–using dry-erase boards, Post-its, stained napkins, etc.–figuring he can better control what he has to say by not opening his mouth. Friends at first find him weird, but then play along and decide it's cool. His mother is sure he is cracking up, but his father goes along with him. All the while, he's obsessed with trying to find out if Xandra likes him or, you know, likes him. Each character Jake interacts with is represented by a different typeface and, in some cases, a "handwriting key" might be helpful to keep track of who's who. This unique writing style makes for attentive reading–and guesswork–as readers eavesdrop on Jake's otherwise typical social life and try to decipher what is actually going on. His inner struggles with feelings, friendships, and forgiveness are believable, but despite the highly personal nature of the story, the correspondence comes across as somewhat removed and impersonal as readers witness Jake's struggle to understand himself and, oh, yeah, maybe–or maybe not–to win the girl.–Roxanne Myers Spencer, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Booklist

Gr. 9-12. Shooting off his big mouth (again), Jake alienates his best friend and college roommate, Sean. As a result, Jake takes a self-imposed vow of silence and communicates only in written messages. In fact, the text of Frank's playful investigation in narrative technique consists exclusively of Jake's messages, the written replies of others, and occasional drawings. The result is story as assemblage, always interesting to look at but sometimes confusing, and, at least initially, emotionally distancing. Most readers will eventually warm up to funny but feckless Jake and sympathize with his frustrated longings for Alexandra, but the unconventional way the story is told calls attention to itself and distracts from narrative continuity and reader-character empathy. Contemporary teens who communicate largely in instant messages may well disagree, but in either case, Frank's experiment is fascinating. Michael Cart
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Graphia (October 25, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618412026
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618412020
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,841,100 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Willow on June 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
I CAN'T TELL YOU by Hillary Frank may be one of the best young adult books I've read in quite some time. It's funny, heartbreaking, and easy to relate to...and it doesn't try to glorify being a young adult or falling in love.

After a huge fight with his best friend Sean, Jake decides that he can't ever get into any trouble if he just stops talking altogether. As his friendship with Sean is dying, he becomes closer to his friends Paul, Roger, and Xandra. But when Jake realizes that he doesn't just want to be friends with Xandra, things start getting a bit messy. He doesn't know how to explain himself and he doesn't know what do about it, so...he decides to do nothing.

Told entirely through notes passed back and forth, I CAN'T TELL YOU is an interesting and original story. The friendships between Jake and Paul, Roger, and Xandra are all incredibly realistic, and the course of a friendship turning into unrequieted love is scarily accurate.

Highly recommended.

Overall grade: A+
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By D. Graham on January 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
I am writing this the morning after reading I Can't Tell You, the entire thing, front to back, etc. etc. Once I got used to the clever all-journal style of writing it was easy to just breeze by and get 190-something pages done in three hours.
I liked it, as a boy who considers himself *very* masculine I find it hard to admit but, "I liked the love story" I was sweet, and largely original.
But it's more than that, as a Senior in High School who keeps a journal (like the narrator), has a seething disdain for my peers (the narrator gets there around page 30) I really saw an authentic portrayal of my situation. Crazy that a woman author could do that huh?
Why did I give it four stars? Because I never trust five star reviews, and you shouldn't either.
Oh and the English Proffessor in the book 'speaks' exactly like mine, so while being cool, thats creepy to have Mr. S talking to me through a book I'm reading in bed.
END RAMBLING
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By lubumbash13 on December 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
Inventive, touching, witty and just plain REAL! I work with teenagers everyday and this book does a remarkably good job of capturing their honest emotions and "speech" patterns... Usually YA lit falls short when trying to be "hip" to the current teenage culture but this one hits it right on the money. Terribly original yet a story that everyone will relate to. Keep it up, Hillary!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By wanderingchild81 on November 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
"i can't tell you" by Hillary Frank is a wonderfully delicious story that will draw the reader in from the very first page. Jake is just a normal college student who after opening his big mouth in a fight with his best friend, decides that talking altogether is dangerous and a waste of time. From then all of the communication between him and his friends is through notes and messages. We then follow Jake on his hilarious journey to win the heart of Xandra and discovers the true meaning of "just friends". Highly recomended!
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Format: Paperback
"Talking + me = trouble." Though it's simple and to the point, the statement of main character, Jake Jacobson, describes most of the events in I Can't Tell You, by Hillary Frank. The novel, however short, is full of realistic occurrences, like the loss of close friends, relationships gone wrong, and learning how to cope with your mistakes. The story's ability to relate to high school and college students makes it a spectacular page turner for teens of all ages that are just looking to escape the fantasy world and unravel a realistic, relatively simple, yet enjoyable read.
The plot, though basic and easy to follow is very likable and readable. Jake Jacobson, a college student, and his best friend, Sean have a falling out over a few things Jake said about Sean's previous relationship. To protect himself from losing anymore friends or making any other mistakes through speaking, Jake decides to write notes instead. Through his note writing he gets closer to his friend, Xandra, and soon he begins to think of her as more than a friend to wrestle and joke with, but as a girl he might actually love.
Interesting and unique writing techniques are used by Hillary Frank in I Can't Tell You. Written entirely through notes to his friends, and to his unborn sister, it's easy to get an insight on how Jake might be feeling at any given time and therefore it's easy to become attached and to keep reading to find out if Jake will ever open his mouth again.
I Can't Tell You is a quick and interesting read that I suggest all young adults pick up from their local bookstore or library, curl up in a comfortable chair and read to the end. Through romance, college life, and "the funny" I've come to find that this novel is one I've wanted to read on more than one occasion, and I highly recommend it.
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Format: Paperback
The majority of books I have read in my life, have all been based upon the front cover. I can't tell you, that this book is different then the other ones (did you like that play on words), I was attracted to the slick cover, and but of course its bright neon green color. What would stop me from putting this book in my hands, absolutely nothing. Although it took me about half the book to understand the format of it, before I started to appreciate it. I can't tell you written by Hillary Frank takes to new levels. A story between best friends is told through letters, napkin writings, white board notes, anything that the author could think of. I recommend reading this book to experience something new, something creative, and fresh.

In all, I enjoyed this book, I continued reading until I could find out what would happen between best friends Xandra and Jake. I was engaged with the same problem, a problem of having to be 'just friends' but I am sure everyone has had the same problem. Whether they be the ones making sure to stay as just friends or wanting to be more the just friends.

The problem with this book, is that it just ends. I understand why authors do this, but it is just so frustrating. I wanted more, I wanted to know what was going to happen between Jake and Xandra, will they be more then just friends, if so, it gives hope for me. I know a lot of teens deal with this problem of having to be just friends. I can't tell you, is almost like advice, maybe even a scenario of what could happen between two friends. If you have ever had this problem you would enjoy this book. If you want to learn a simple 'love story' then you would enjoy this book. Most of all, read this book to experience a new way of reading.
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