Books contemporary fiction Romance Young Adult

Keary Taylor reminds us there is always something to be grateful for in her novel “What I Didn’t Say”

If I told you that you only had one day left to live, how would you spend it? Would you tell the person you love that you love them? Would you drop everything and try to see as many of the world wonders as you could? Would you stand up for something you believed in?

What if I told you that, after today, you’d never be able to talk again? What would your last words be? Would you tell someone what they meant to you? Would you reveal your darkest secrets? Would you call out the person who broke your heart? Would you demand answers?

The answers to these questions leave us with the last, and most important, question: Why do we leave it to the last possible moment to do all the things we should have been doing all along?

This is the realisation Jake Hayes makes in Keary Taylor’s touching and heart-warming novel, What I Didn’t Say.

Getting drunk homecoming night your senior year is never a good idea, but Jake Hayes never expected it all to end with a car crash and a t-post embedded in his throat.

His biggest regret about it all? What he never said to Samantha Shay. He’s been in love with her for years and never had the guts to tell her. Now it’s too late. Because after that night, Jake will never be able to talk again.

When Jake returns to his small island home, population 5,000, he’ll have to learn how to deal with being mute. He also finds that his family isn’t limited to his six brothers and sisters, that sometimes an entire island is watching out for you. And when he gets the chance to spend more time with Samantha, she’ll help him learn that not being able to talk isn’t the worst thing that could ever happen to you. Maybe, if she’ll let him, Jake will finally tell her what he didn’t say before, even if he can’t actually say it.

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When you first read the synopsis of What I Didn’t Say, it sounds like a very heavy and hard read – even from the outset you can see it involves a devastating accident, regret, and the inevitable sadness that comes with these things. But, surprisingly, it wasn’t. It was a light read, a happy read, but with great in-depth lessons that leaves you moved and touched and, times, slightly upset. But it wasn’t a depressing story.

Jake reacted to his accident the way any person would have expected – he was broken, he was depressed, he was grieving. However, even in those moments when he hurt so bad that he felt he couldn’t breathe, he pushed on. He didn’t wallow in self-pity. This was incredibly touching and reminds us that pity does not get you aid. Your refusal to give in does.

The character of Sam was also incredibly admirable. She was strong and she was fierce. But I felt that – other than for the story, of course – Sam’s main purpose in the novel was to remind Jake that despite not being able to talk, he still has an awful lot to be happy for.

“There was a lot about my life that was crappy, now that I couldn’t talk. But if I hadn’t gotten drunk that night, if I hadn’t gotten in that accident, would I have ever had this moment? Lying there in the sun, holding Sam’s hand like time didn’t exist and the real world couldn’t touch us?
Somehow I didn’t think so.”
― Keary Taylor, What I Didn’t Say

Unlike most novels in a similar genre, their love story wasn’t just about the corny, cheesy, romance to keep readers satisfied. It actually conveyed the main message of the book: There are so many things we have to be grateful about in the world, and these things can’t be taken for granted. Yes, sometimes we go through hell and go through things we didn’t imagine were even possible, but things could always be worse and the only way to be able to keep going is to take note of all the things we do have to be happy about and find love, magic and happiness in even the simplest of things.

This is what Taylor says is the message of her incredible story:

“So when life seems impossible, when it seems so bad that you can’t go on, just stop for a second and take a look at all the things that you do have. I bet the lost will grow pretty fast. And even if it doesn’t, you have the power to decide if you’re going to let the bad or the good take control of your life and define who you are.”
― Keary Taylor on What I Didn’t Say

The first thing to take from this novel is that we shouldn’t wait until we’ve almost run out time to do the things we should have been doing from the beginning. If you love someone, tell them. Even if you’re scared, even if it might cause problems, even if might not work out. You say it before it’s too late. Every now and then stop and take look around because this is it, and you never know when your world could change and it might all be gone tomorrow.

The other is to learn to appreciate the smaller things in life and take note of all the good in our lives.

“I knew this was one of those experiences for me that made you grow as a person. This was one of those times that made you put things in perspective and appreciate everything you had.”
― Keary Taylor, What I Didn’t Say

Just when we think we figured everything out, the world throws us a curveball. So, we have to improvise. We find happiness in unexpected places. We find ourselves back to the things that matter the most. The universe is funny that way – sometimes it has a way of making sure we wind up exactly where we belong.

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