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What They Always Tell Us Hardcover – August 12, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (August 12, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385735073
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385735070
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,268,104 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up—Alex and James are only one year apart, but the distance between these brothers is vast. James, a popular and talented senior, awaits news about his early admission to Duke, playing tennis and going to parties with his buddies on the weekends. Alex, a junior, is confused and disoriented after having chugged Pine-Sol at a party, lost all of his friends, and found himself secretly dating Nathen, one of his brother's best pals. The backdrop is Tuscaloosa, AL, where Alex knows his emerging sexual identity will never be accepted, and James fears he will be stuck forever if Duke turns him down. The boys wander their way through the school year fulfilling family obligations, befriending an odd and lonely neighbor boy, and navigating their way back to mutual affection after a period of mild estrangement. Wilson's novel offers a look inside the minds of both brothers, allowing readers to experience their parents, their school, and their town from two distinct points of view, confident and fearful, indifferent and melancholy, impatient and reflective. Some readers may feel that the book has a bit of a slow start, with some of the relationships only beginning to develop after page 100. They may come away wishing to have gotten to know the central characters more deeply, although the relationship between Alex and Nathen is touchingly realistic. In the end, this book may appeal to teens who are grappling with decisions about the future, the frustrations of family, and the choices that relationships require of us.—Nora G. Murphy, Los Angeles Academy Middle School
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The story is told in alternating chapters by two brothers. James is a popular, smart senior who awaits his acceptance letter from Duke. But there are several dark folds in his smooth life. He is in the process of breaking up with Alice, whose only attraction for him was their sexual relationship. Then there’s his brother. What was he thinking when he swallowed Pine-Sol at a party? Alex is a junior and still trying to find his way back from an impetuous, potentially deadly act. His friends are gone, but one of James’ buddies, Nathen, gets Alex involved in running, and slowly Alex sees there might be a life left for him. Soon it becomes clear that the life he wants is with Nathen, who returns his feelings. The writing, which at first seems straightforward, almost bland, becomes increasingly layered as it dispenses its information, gradually and ever more movingly. Adding both texture to the story and an element of mystery is the inclusion of a young neighbor boy, whose problems draw both James and Alex to his side and to each other. This is a strong debut, and Wilson shows admirable control of a complicated story that in less-accomplished hands could have spun out of control. The structure literally allows readers to see both sides. Grades 9-12. --Ilene Cooper

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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The character development is good.
D. Hall
Highly recommended for young adults, specifically males, regardless of sexuality.
C. Reyes
Pretty nice book easy to read keeping you glued at the pages.
IceBoy86

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Phillip D. Kent on August 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wish this book had been around when I was a kid. Believable characters in real life situations. The author does not speak down to his target audience. He speaks to them on their level, using language that they would use, not the watered-down, sugar-sweet language that I remember reading. I also find it amazing how even secondary characters are so multidimensional. Cannot recommend this book enough, to people of all ages.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By W. Haggiagi on August 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
There is something very comforting about this book. Sitting down and reading it took me back to my own teenage years and the way with which Wilson captures that familiarity is very cool. I didn't grow up anywhere near Alabama and yet what these characters go through rang very true to me. Everything from the relationship between the two brothers to the storyline with the neighbor's kid. Very simply written and yet smart and complex. The fact that both the writer's sense of humor and connection to the material comes across so easily is only one of many great aspects about this book. I was very pleased.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By sn1752 on September 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Martin Wilson crafts a wonderful tale of teenage friendship, troubles & love (both familial & otherwise) among 4 boys that are growing up in suburban Alabama. "What They Always Tell Us" masterfully portrays today's teenage voice in a way to which almost anyone can relate. Much like an Altman film, Wilson creates characters that have their own disparate stories & then come together in a not unremarkable way. The writing style is also reminiscent of Louis de Bernières. Though the subject matter may rarely veer into the risque, it is never sensational nor is it used for anything other than logical plot advancement. (It is useful to keep in mind that Holden Caulfield's language was a bit racy, too.) Wilson's writing is ebullient without being pedantic, a rare trait in first-time authors. I would without reservation recommend this book for any person that enjoys a well-written, smart & relateable novel that cleverly and successfully explores teenage life.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By John Who on November 5, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was a wonderful book. I complement the author for writing about gay boys who are not drama queens, experienced, or overly sex motivated. I seem to remember taking uncertain steps, halting attemps, unsure about my feelings. I loved the boys who were stars of this drama and I really hated for the book to end.

For a change, it depicted the parents and as loving and supportive. I liked the fact that Alex was not totally narcisistic and able to show compassion for others who needed friends. It showed a gay boy who was a whole human being.

I really hope that librarys will put this book on their shelves. I am leaving mine used copy at the teen center in my small town.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By bensan10 on August 3, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What They Always Tell Us, by Martin Wilson is honestly one of the best books I have ever read, and I've read alot. One customer stated that the Character of "James" get's lost in the book. I seriously don't see this, James' character has so much to do with this book. His progression throughout the novel is quite impressive, and his last chapter will leave everyone in tears. This book really isn't as much about homosexuality as it is about something that finally makes Alex happy. "What if what they always tell us is wrong?" Anyone will re-examine what they thought they knew about closeted teenagers after this read, as I did and I am recommending this book to as many of my good friends as I can.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By IceBoy86 on October 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Pretty nice book easy to read keeping you glued at the pages.
The story it's more about brotherhood and growing up than on gay themes. However, the discovery of own sexuality and a glimpse at what being gay means for teenagers in high school is well filled in into the story. Coming out is actually left out since the gay character do not end up doing it, but this is balanced by a nice viewpoint of "coming of age" process. Discovering to be gay and accepting yourself is pointed out (even if not in deep) as a basic step during your coming of age journey and the impact that such thing may have on your life is also taken in consideration.
Concluding a book I have enjoyed reading and that I definitely suggest.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By James Filtz on May 1, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed reading this book overall but take question to the message I believe the book conveys. I feel like the message is that it is ok to be in the closet. Ok to keep your relationship a secret. Towards the end of the book I felt like it was going to shift into a more coming out kind of story, but was disappointed Alex never truly identifies himself as gay to his parents, etc. I know that this book is written for a younger audience, but I also felt like the depictions of intimacy between Alex and Nathen were not handled well. They felt rushed, and didn't explore some of the issues that could be explored. I would highly recommend this book for the writing, and style which I found to be very captivating, however the message left me wanting.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bobby on November 2, 2010
Format: Paperback
While I can agree that this book relates incredibly to the strength of brotherhood as well as acknowledging distinct homosocial roles between men, I really think the true power of this novel can be seen in the psychological development of Alex as both a literary character and a young man. I think we can all see a little bit of both Alex and James in ourselves: the desire to always seek out perfection in both ourselves and those around us and the devastating blow we must face when these expectations are shattered due to the limitations of humanity.

More importantly though, I feel that this book is particularly moving due to how much energy it addresses to the turmoil felt not only by teenagers but also to those within the LGBT community. Alex's pain and confusion is shared with the readers since we are bonded with him in the quest for his self-discovery and psychological development. The character never makes the giant leap of discovery to "I'm gay!" which is quite revolutionary within the young adult queer literature movement. We are often too bombarded with pressure to relate gay characters to a specific role of homosexuality that we forget that, at least in this case, the character is still just a young man going through personal traumas in addition to sexual discovery. While I cannot say this discovery is similar to the traditional adolescent sexual awakening (as seen in his actions before the start of the novel), I will admit that Wilson cleverly represents this awakening of a person that borders on Chopin.
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