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What to Say Next Hardcover – July 11, 2017
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"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
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From School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—David is a middle-class high school student who describes himself as nonneurotypical, or having a "borderline case of Asperger's." He has a loving family, including an older sister who deftly helps him navigate social interaction, in part through a notebook wherein he describes his world and determines whom he can trust. One of the trusted few is a classmate named Kit, an ambitious only child wracked with grief over her father's death. Fleeing devoted friends who suddenly seem ridiculously shallow and self-absorbed, Kit sits at David's table one day for lunch. Tired of pity and platitudes, she warms to David's "brutal honesty" about the death of her dad. Slowly, with pathos and humor, Kit and David develop a friendship on the outskirts of the high school milieu. Their story emerges from alternating first-person narratives that progress effortlessly. The pair's friendship is tested by David's inability to read cues and by closely held secrets that both of them are nursing. It blooms into first love, and both grow as a result of their challenges. With this layered novel, Buxbaum handles the theme of identity with rare genius. As narrator, David inspires love and respect, not because of his neurological and social struggles, but because he is an admirable human being. His neural challenges do not define him or his trajectory. Similarly, questions abut the meaning and importance of ethnicity (What does it mean to be Asian? Or Italian?) thread their way through the book without overwhelming it. VERDICT A must-have for YA collections.—Sheri Reda, Wilmette Public Library, IL
"Buxbaum uses split first-person narration to give readers striking insight into both teens. . . . Readers will easily see David as a complex, brilliant individual. Discussion of Kit's family and heritage bring additional complexity and depth to his portrait of grief and recovery."--PW
". . . a story of friendship and finding one's tribe. Teens who enjoy sweet, character-driven relationship stories will find their tribe with Kit and David." –VOYA
“Charming, funny, and deeply affecting all at the same time.” –Nicola Yoon, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Everything, Everything and The Sun Is Also a Star
“Heartfelt, charming, deep, and real. I love it with all my heart.” –Jennifer Niven, New York Times bestselling author of All the Bright Places
"Told in the alternating voices of a girl whose world has been shattered and a boy who is the only person in her life who sees her clearly, WHAT TO SAY NEXT is about the power of connection and the beauty of compassion. With sensitivity, wisdom, and heart, Julie Buxbaum weaves a story in which loss and grieving are balanced by humor and insight. This novel is so compulsively readable that you’ll be surprised how deeply your emotions are stirred."—Christina Baker Kline, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Orphan Train
"Julie Buxbaum has written my perfect love story--two brave, flawed characters ditching the idea of 'normal,' falling in love, and finding the unanswerable answers to life in each other. I adored it."—Cath Crowley, author of Graffiti Moon and Words in Deep Blue
"Among many other YA characters who find love despite their differences, Kit and David stand out." —The Horn Book
Top customer reviews
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David is on the autism spectrum. People might say he has Asperger’s but as he will tell you, in the latest edition of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), instead people are considered to have high-functioning autism. But people are not linear, they are multidimensional. He carries a notebook where he writes down all his thoughts on everyone in his school and life. It’s a guidebook too, with help from his sister of what to do and not to do. He is picked on by the “popular” kids. He keeps to himself, walking to class and lunch with his headphones on to drown out the noises. Until one day, Kit sits down next to him. David and Kit and have gone to school together for most of their lives but Kit isn’t usually in his orbit. Kit has her own problems that she is trying to deal with. Her father, David’s dentist, recently died in a car accident. She doesn’t feel like herself anymore but she is surprised to see how good she feels when she talks to the straightforward David. And he begins to feel something too. Oh, my heart can’t take it! As they become closer to each other, David tells her he will help her try and figure out just what happened at her father’s car accident and the Accident Project begins. What will they find out about that and just what will they find out about each other?
If you haven’t read anything by Ms. Buxbaum, why the hell haven’t you?! This is her second YA novel. Her first, Tell Me Three Things, also gave me all the feels. Read it! You must read this book! You MUST! It is so full of warmth and love and joy and hope. There are some sad parts, yes, I cried. There are some parts that are hurtful and hard to read, yes, I cried but all it’s parts put together make this absolutely one of my very favorite books that I have read this year.
Ms. Buxbaum, you wrote that you hoped that we care about Kit and David as much as you do. Yes we do.
Told in alternating chapters in Kit’s and David’s voices, Julia Buxbaum does a great job capturing the subtleties of narration the subtleties of an autistic voice, though the story makes clear there’s no one way autism presents itself. David’s honesty was often refreshing, though sometimes cringeworthy. Buxbaum also did a great job representing Southeast Asians tacit racial issues drawing on personal experiences with her husband and kids.
By adding autism and Kit’s mixed race (Caucasian and Indian/American) WHAT TO SAY NEXT is a new take of nerdy kid and popular kid realizing they’d make perfect friends/dates. It’s a sweet, though likely unrealistic story of friendship and love. I liked how David never used autism as an excuse, but at the same time found his growth and easy adaptation and flexibility too mercurial. His relationship with his older sister as she helps him fit in with social coaching was endearing.
Younger teens, those with special needs and southeast Asians will enjoy these diverse characters as well as readers who enjoy atypical characters. WHAT TO SAY NEXT has received criticism from some reviewer I respect and I understand their points of view that David shouldn’t have had to change to get the girl and should have been accepted for who he was. I think of the benefits of adapting to social norms with maintaining personality and individuality gives individuals the best chance of personal, educational and professional success.
I've been grieving and wanted a book to help me escape...just for a little while, anyway. This book did just that. It's truly one of the greatest books I've ever read. I wanted to hug it after I finished, and now, I can't stop thinking about David and Kit - two of the best book characters ever written. Oh how I love them so.
The author did a spectacular job researching autism. I loved David's brilliant mind. Following Kit, as she too grieves, was comforting to me. Kit is a firecracker with so much heart. What she felt, I feel, and I'm certain many who have lost a loved one can say the same.
I will reread this one again and again. I think you should read it, too. Truly, it's magnificent; it's a work of art to wrap yourself up in.