Things You Can’t Say

Perfect for fans of See You in the Cosmos and Where the Watermelons Grow, author Jenn Bishop’s latest novel tells the moving story of a boy determined to uncover the truth.

Nothing is going right this summer for Drew. And after losing his dad unexpectedly three years ago, Drew knows a lot about things not going right. First it’s the new girl Audrey taking over everything at the library, Drew’s sacred space. Then it’s his best friend, Filipe, pulling away from him. But most upsetting has to be the mysterious man who is suddenly staying with Drew’s family. An old friend of Mom’s? Drew isn’t buying that.

With an unlikely ally in Audrey, he’s determined to get to the bottom of who this man really is. The thing is, there are some fears—like what if the person you thought was your dad actually wasn’t—that you can’t speak out loud, not to anyone. At least that’s what Drew thinks.

But then again, first impressions can be deceiving.

Aladdin / Simon & Schuster

Audiobook published by Tantor Media, narrated by Ramon de Ocampo

Cover illustration by Julie McLaughlin / 336 pages / Middle Grade (8-12) / ISBN: 9781534440975

Praise for Things You Can't Say

A Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year 2020

A Junior Library Guild Selection

A 2021-2022 South Carolina Junior Book Award Nominee

A 2021 Kansas NEA Reading Circle Recommended Title

Parents’ Choice Gold Award

“…The real drama in Drew’s life takes place in his own mind and heart, as he reflects on the meaning of his father’s death and its impact on his own life and identity. In the character of Drew, novelist Jenn Bishop has created a remarkably realistic and sympathetic protagonist, who slowly but surely finds a way to reconcile his private thoughts and his public behavior. For young readers who are prepared to be engaged by its difficult subject matter, Things You Can’t Say is a deeply moving and insightful story.” – Parents’ Choice Foundation [full review]

“In a story about the aftermath of parental suicide, former children’s librarian Bishop tells a touching and believable story about the ways worries feed on each other, the difference that honesty makes to kids, and how much emotional growth a child Drew’s age can experience in just a few weeks.” –Publishers Weekly [full review]

“Bishop imbues Drew, his loving mother, and Audrey with just enough insight to make their efforts to support each other fully believable. Drew’s emerging anger with his father is both poignant and tragically appropriate. Drew’s present-tense narration is candid and vulnerable, offering readers both mirrors for and windows to this particular, very difficult experience . . . A thoughtful examination of the slow, uneven recovery that follows a devastating loss.” – Kirkus [full review]

“With a deft, sympathetic hand, Bishop relates Drew’s struggles to define his own identity while coming to terms with the man his father was.” – Recommended, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Bishop’s emotional novel may provide a way for readers whose lives have been impacted by suicide to navigate a complex topic and will appeal to those who appreciate tales of trauma and healing.” – School Library Journal

“While many kids won’t feel quite as isolated or as stuck as Drew, whose father tragically committed suicide three years ago, the inability to talk about deep emotional grief is a topic that will resonate and is deftly handled here.” – Recommended, School Library Connection

“This thoughtfully written story shows how difficult it can be for a sensitive boy to open up to others about what’s troubling him. In her third middle-grade novel, Bishop realistically depicts Drew’s anger and hurt over his father’s death. A sensitive exploration of suicide, forgiveness, and the difficulty of navigating friendships.” – Booklist

“I can’t remember another middle-grade book I’ve read that deals with suicide and its aftermath so forthrightly. Middle-grade books don’t deal with issues on the same level as young-adult books, but there are most definitely topics concerning loss and grief of all kinds that can and must be written about for the middle-grade reader. Jenn Bishop does a great job tackling this complicated and grief-filled topic for her audience . . . Even if your young reader has not lost someone to suicide, Bishop’s characters are so likable that all young readers will love the story on its own merits.” – Deb Aronson, The News-Gazette [full review]

“As Things You Can’t Say shows the gaping fissures that loss and grief can cause in a kiddo’s life, so too does it show how those same fissures may begin to heal and close. That we are rooting so hard for their closing in Andrew’s life is a measure of how wonderfully real and honest this story is, and of how deep our need is for just the right words.” —Gary D. Schmidt, Newbery Honor winner and National Book Award Finalist

“With grit and authenticity, Bishop takes us inside the head and heart of a young boy. Be prepared to laugh, cry, cheer, and turn the last page with a satisfying sigh.” —Barbara O’Connor, author of Wonderland

“This touching, authentic novel will open readers’ eyes and hearts about mental health issues in loving, ‘normal’ families. Jenn Bishop explores a challenging subject with sensitivity and grace.” —Barbara Dee, author of Maybe He Just Likes You

“People who go away forever. People who come out of nowhere. People who drift away and then drift back. Three years after the death of his father, young Drew finds a way to make peace with all these sorts of people. An emotional tale of a boy who finds it takes equal measures of courage to move forward and to look back.” —Paul Mosier, author of Echo’s Sister

“How will Drew’s friendship with Audrey affect his lifelong connection with Filipe? Will Drew and Audrey eventually be more than friends? As they get to know each other, Drew occasionally wonders. Beyond a few brief hand grasps, nothing physical takes place.. But there is an abundance of caring behavior that makes this a touching story for middle grade readers.” – Richie Partington, Richie’s Picks 

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Watch and listen to Jenn read the first chapter of Things You Can’t Say:

Click here for the Reading Group Guide to Things You Can’t Say. 

Watch and listen to educator Colby Sharp’s Book Talk for Things You Can’t Say:

Click here for Mental Health Resources

Click here for “Things We Should Say About Suicide,” an essay on A Novel Mind

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