All The Things We Never Said by Yasmin Rahman
Expected Publication: 2019 by Hot Key Books
Genre(s): Contemporary, Young Adult
Format: Paperback, ARC
Thank you so much Pansing for sending me the ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review! Yasmin Rahman’s All the Things We Never Said will be available at all good bookstores.
I am writing this review with many thoughts in my mind—thoughts I have difficulty picking apart and choosing to focus on, despite having spent more than an hour in silence, contemplating this book. I know that the author knows what it’s like to have a mental illness, and I’m aware that the support group formed in All the Things We Never Said—the discussions and more, are perhaps echoes of what the author has experienced. Every one is different and each story is valid. No one is owed a convincing, intriguing account of what they have or are going through. However, the same cannot be entirely applied when it comes to fiction, even when they have echoes or paraphrased moments of what the author has truly experienced.
With that said, I hope my review doesn’t come off as insensitive. This is my perspective and my opinions of this book. It is not THE perspective and opinion.
All the Things We Never Said is written in the points of view of three different girls. Mehreen, a Bengali Muslim with anxiety and depression—her Chaos. Cara who’s paralyzed from waist down and confined to a wheelchair. And, Olivia who seems to have a perfect life but actually doesn’t. These three girls have different personalities, backgrounds and characteristics and these differences are accentuated by how their points of view are written. Mehreen is gentle and kind, her narrative often juxtaposed by the aggressive font that depicts her Chaos. Cara’s is biting and British, filled with expletives and aggressive language and actions. As for Olivia, hers is in free verse with typography that allows us to visualize and move along with it. I think it’s brilliant how Rahman distinguishes them like this, making it easy to know and recall who’s POV you’re reading.
The plot, on the other hand, I think of as less brilliant. This isn’t to say that it isn’t good. It’s just that I find this story to be too beautiful. Too…hopeful and neat, almost artificial. Of course, it’s not wrong for it to be like that, but the way the plot is executed at some points seems to make light of the heavy and serious topics involved. While I do believe that with some discussions, some support, one’s mind can be changed. But, this doesn’t work for everyone. The fact that it worked for all three girls, and so quickly too? Again, too hopeful and neat. It’s also too easy and fairy tale happy ending-esque.
Even so, I do find these girls relatable and I like how their family isn’t as entirely absent as family members normally are in books like this. So on that note, I’d like to explicitly state that the diversity in this book is great.
Other than that, not all loose ends are tied up here. On one hand, we don’t get to learn much of MementoMori.com, which is disappointing considering how the summary made it sound like it’ll be a more active presence in the story. On the other hand, it’s nice to not have every question answered because this makes the story a little more realistic. Also, since I’m reading the ARC of this book, I’d like to bring into attention that the book, from page 211 onward has a handful of typographical errors. There are missing words and phrases so hopefully, the published edition doesn’t have the same problems.
Everything considered, All The Things We Never Said is the kind of mental health awareness book we need more of because of the diversity it shows. Mental illnesses are rather ‘taboo’ and misunderstood in my country (and perhaps many other Asian countries). So, we need more characters with “that extra layer of feeling their culture and religion were at odds with their mental illness”, more books, more anything to raise awareness and allow as many as possible to understand and know that they’re not alone.