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I Can't Tell You Paperback – October 25, 2004
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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.
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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Top customer reviews
I couldn't put this book down. I wondered what it would be like to communicate with written words only. Would Jake be able to survive in college with only written communication?
This was a very interesting premise for a story and I enjoyed it very much.
Not only does she continue it, she turns it on its head, with a completely NEW narrative style: the story is entirely told via notes written on napkins, dry erase boards, etc.
I'll admit, it's kind of hard to get used to the style, and at first I wondered what in the heck was going on, but once I fell into the rhythm, it made total sense.
Jake is a college freshman, and he stops talking out loud after a huge fight with his best friend and roommate. Of course, he still has to communicate, so he turns to writing, and he finds is not necessarily any better at not being misinterpreted when he's writing instead of speaking.
Jake is struggling with the loss of that friendship; the desire to turn a friendship with a girl, Xandra, into something more, but fear at loosing that friendship; his parents; what to do with his life after college, etc. In short, all of the things you struggle with mentally at that age.
The author perfectly captured the angst and joy and sadness and fear of that time in your life... almost uncomfortably so for me, 20+ years on from all that... yet, still not so far away that I've forgotten the "does he like me, does he not like?" dance....
I gave this four stars because there was more to be explored, and more I wanted to know, but the narrative structure kind of limited that; however, a great YA read overall.
Frank uses realistic teenage language, and does not try too hard to sound like a college student - in my opinion, she is right on target. The format of this novel is a little difficult to adjust to at first, but I had no problem with it later on. At times, however, I wished this book could have been written as a "regular" novel, as I strived for some details that could not be explained through Jake and Xandra writing on napkins, dry erase boards, etc. The ending of this book was also a disappointment, which is why I only give this four stars. I desperately wanted Xandra and Jake to end up together - when they didn't, I felt as if all the hope I had for them diminished, even if it seems both characters are going to be all right without each other.
All in all, this was a great read and I highly suggest it.
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.
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.
Overall grade: A+