Joel has it all figured out. For example, he’s figured out that the school could actually save money by buying all the juniors and seniors cars and it could be less than the annual transportation budget. Or maybe motorcycles if the cars turn out to be too expensive. He also knows how to really let people know how he feels by writing text messages to them and then, just not sending them. Yup, he has his whole life figured out, for sure.
Or maybe not. Most assuredly not. In fact, Joel is pretty messed up. He misses his best friend, Andy, but well, he’s gone because of what happened. He’s in love with a girl named Eli, and has been since the 7th grade, but can’t work up the courage to tell her because he’s two inches shorter than she is and he might actually be shrinking rather than getting taller, he is a hypochondriac, and might have just punched in the face the only other person who could possibly want to be his friend. So yeah, nothing is going right for him.
So Joel just pretty much tries to follow Eli around and she’s such an amazing person who truly wants to make the world a better place and when that thing that happened to Andy happened, it was Eli who started to sit with Joel in the school cafeteria. And so when she decides to do her junior year community service semester at a local soup kitchen, Joel has no reason not to join her and every reason to, since Eli is pretty much his every reason.
It is at the soup kitchen that Eli and Joel start to get to know Benj – a new kid at school who no one really knows what is up with him only that he blurts out the most random stuff – and all the regulars that come into the soup kitchen, including a guy that Joel names Rooster, just because he always gives names to the ones that don’t talk. Joel feels he’s just keeping his head above water, and soon he realizes it won’t be enough as one thing after another begins to pull him under.
Words We Don’t Say by K.J. Reilly is a priceless book that touches on some of the most heart wrenching topics facing society and our teens today. This book will make you laugh out loud and cry and cross your fingers for all the people you meet along the way. Just an absolute delight to read and an unforgettable book.
Highly recommended for 8th grade and up – due to heavy use of language, but in this reviewer’s mind, appropriate to the book and the character.