Sunday, April 5, 2009

This Is What I Want to Tell You by Heather Duffy Stone

(Description is a bit longer in this one because I wanna go in detail. Blue = description. Regular color = review-type reflections.)

Nadio and Noelle are twins, but when it comes to their friend Keeley, the trio are more like triplets--inseparable since forever. But then Keeley goes to Oxford with her parents for an entire summer and for some reason, everything between the three changes. Noelle wants nothing to do with Keeley and even though they promised each other they'd talk every day, every time Keeley emailed her, Noelle never replied. The day Keeley comes back from Oxford (which is when the book begins), Noelle isn't there (on purpose) to greet her. She's out with Jessica, her new friend, to a party, where she meets Parker.


Meanwhile, Nadio comes back from his evening run and finds Keeley, who's recently returned from Oxford. He suddenly sees her in a new light, one thing leads to another, and the two end up kissing. This leads to a relationship between them, one that has its own issues, one they keep a secret from the ever-distancing Noelle. Noelle becomes enamored by Parker and he's her primary focus now that she doesn't have her two peers to keep her occupied.

The book unfolds in a way that explores the growing spaces between Nadio and Keeley, and Noelle, and what led them there. Noelle is angry at Keeley for having everything so easy and for complaining that she doesn't want to go to Oxford, that she doesn't want this or that, that she just wants to stay home. Keeley is hiding something that happened in Oxford from the both of them that accounts for the change both notice in her. And Nadio is hiding his inner conflict with his absent father figure: Who is the man and how does he fit into Nadio's life?

I know it doesn't seem like a lot happens in this book, or that it's nothing new. But the way things were spread out made me feel full at the end, like at the end of a satisfying meal. It's not what I would call a fun read, nor a light one. I wouldn't give it to any young readers who read up because this is the type of YA novel I just don't think they would get. And not because they are stupid, because they aren't--it's more that this wouldn't resonate with them, isn't relevant to them.

Nor is it a read for every occasion. I wouldn't recommend reading it at any time you're feeling impulsive or on the go--calmness and patience go a long way into appreciating this. I had a lot of moments when I was nodding along with the narrative, thinking, "That's it. That's totally it." (Although the voice was strange sometimes. Good strange. But strange all the same.) I wouldn't hesitate for a moment to pass this on to older readers and adults who enjoy YA.

That said, this is one of the most offbeat books I've read in a long time. It's written in a way I haven't come across yet in YA--where there are no quotations marks in the dialogue. (Which, no, I didn't have any problems with. I don't mind quirks like this, and the whole textual silence correlated with the theme and accentuated the poignancy of the overall product.) The text is indented when the characters speak, but there's no stylistic divide between what's being said and the tag that follows it. This makes it so I had to really focus to keep up.

Also, the writing just disappeared while I was reading. I don't know why, but there was no barrier between me and the characters and their lives. Seriously, this has never happened to me before, or if it has, I don't remember, which kind of defeats the purpose. I doubt I'll forget this, at any rate.

One thing that's been bugging me, though, is this: Nadio and Noelle both had their own POVs, but what we saw of Keeley was only through the both of them. This didn't hinder her development, don't get me wrong, but it struck me odd when this was essentially their--the three of theirs--story. One possible explanation is this:

Nadio and Noelle were conceived in Italy when their parents were seventeen and subsequently abandoned by their father. Their mom--Lace, as they call her--is supportive and present in their lives. Keeley's parents are scholars who place their academic life more than before her. In many ways, she felt like an antithesis to Nadio and Noelle; her and their lives were inversely proportional to each other. Where she has a lot of money, they had none. Where they have only one parent who goes the extra mile to fill empty paternal voids twice, she has two parents who are never there. Where they are twins, she is an only child. At one point Nadio refers to her as the sister without any siblings. So, maybe this was another one of the things one didn't have that the other two compensated for.

At any rate, a most unusual novel. Quiet and intense, two qualities enhanced by its stylistic silence, this is a book that grows, expands, by a millionfold from first page to last. It's literary, in a way. I have a feeling it'll stick with me.

Flux | 232 pages | March 1st, 2009 | Heather Duffy Stone's blog | GoodReads | Amazon

Further: I have to say that I love the packaging. It has smaller dimensions than your average trade paperback--think MTV book sized--and the paragraphs are double spaced--think Speak. Anyway, the design is really clean, simple, and understated, which helped set the mood.

18 comments:

Reader Rabbit said...

Seems like you really liked it. :)

Sounds unique as well, I'll keep it on my wishlist!

Amy said...

I love the cover! And you're such a great reviewer. I think I might check this one out.

Lenore said...

Nothing in the description screams must read to me. But if you gave it an A, it must be worth reading.

madison said...

I also really recommend this book. It's more you have to read it for the writing, not the plot. :-)

Amee said...

Awesome review. I don't really care to read the book (like Lenore the summary just doesn't say must read for me), but I loved your review, especially the last paragraph explaining the lack in narrative from one main character and its possible meanings. Very literary. ;)

deltay said...

Hmm this sounds like a really interesting read. And the fact that the writing/barrier just disappeared for a closer insight into the characters... I'll definitely have to check it out! I'm intrigued ;)

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for the review; I'd like to read this. It's a great cover, too.

Alea said...

Ok apparently the 5 or so times I read the descriptions for this book I never realized the twins were brother and sister, I thought they were sister and sister. Maybe Nadio looked like Nadia lol!

Mishel said...

Really great review. I'm really thinking about giving this book a shot!

Khy said...

This one just moved up higher in my TBR pile. Dun dun dun.

Anonymous said...

I haven't heard of this one, but it sounds like my type of book. I'll choose characters over plot any day! Thanks for the review. :)

Lost In Lit said...

Great review...I've never heard of this book but it sounds very intruiging.

Michelle Zink said...

Wasn't this one amazing?! This book has stayed with me for a long, long time (I rad the ARC many months ago). I can't explain it, but it MEANT something to me, you know?

Definitely one of my all-time favorite Debs books.

Heather said...

Steph, thank you so much for your great review! This review meant so much to me... it was the kind of experience I dreamed a reader would have. Some trivia: when I started the novel it was actually in three parts-- Keeley WAS a narrator. Ill tell you about this in a separate message though as I loved your thoughts. thanks!! heather

Melissa Walker said...

Wow. I love the way you describe this book; I'm completely intrigued.

Jen said...

I really want this! And the cover is lovely (I'm a cover fiend)

Mary said...

Did you read THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO TELL YOU? It's my Kidlit Book Club pick for April.

I'll be hosting Heather Duffy Stone for an interview, posting a review and giving away a copy!

Head over there right now! http://kidlit.com/kidlit-book-club/

Book Spot said...

This is another book on my wishlist that I'm hoping my library will get in soon...glad to see your review of it :D (and I'm following your blog now-I think...the new follow-y thing is kind of weird) but now I can at least read your posts if not always comment...)

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Hey! For some reason, this embedded comment form makes most people click twice before the comment is processed and published. It's not you - it's just that it's a new Blogger feature with kinks and all that. (But I adore it and don't wanna get rid of it!) I removed Captcha to make the process easier. You don't have to rewrite the comments twice; just click on SUBMIT twice and it should work. If not, email me. Thanks! -Steph