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Book Review: What No One Else Can Hear, by Brynn Stein

Book – What No One Else Can Hear

Author – Brynn Stein

Star rating – ★★★★★

No. of Pages – 220 (15 of adverts)

Ease of reading – easy to read

Would I read it again – Yes

This is probably the best book I’ve read by Brynn Stein so far. It’s original in a way that the others haven’t been – no part of the story reminds me of another book/movie/plot – and I find myself liking the originality and diversity of the characters.

Writing

Although written in first person, which I don’t actually enjoy (particularly by this author, for whatever reason) I thoroughly enjoyed the writing and the story that was conveyed. To me, this was the most original story, as I said above, and also the one least hampered by anger, violence and grammar mistakes.

Quite honestly, there isn’t much I can say about this story, because it’s left me sort of dumbstruck. It’s great, different to anything I’ve read before and I think that’s because the characters and the plot of this one were much more vividly described and articulated.

I didn’t write many notes, while I was reading. I was too engrossed with finding out what happened next. I do remember asking what was wrong with putting ketchup on mashed potatoes (I do it all the time), until much later in the story when it was explained that it wasn’t just ketchup, it was half a bottle of the stuff. And there I can agree that it’s a bit much. 🙂

There were 3 instances of repeat writing, that irritated me. I don’t know why, but this author seems prolific for it. I don’t know whether it’s because I’ve read the majority of their writing portfolio in one week or whether it’s just because these are things I’ve come to notice, but it’s frustrating. The author is a good storyteller, but when these repeat moments pop up, it spoils it for me. The author is good enough to not need them.

1.I lo-care – I can’t say how many books this “slip up” has been in, in exactly this format. Probably about 4 of the 5 I’ve read this week.

2. “You’re thinking too loud” – this phrase, in many formats, is really common and appears in EVERY story I’ve read by this author. Every one. Who can hear someone thinking? You can read it on their face, when they drift off into their thoughts, but no one who isn’t looking at the actual person can actually say this and KNOW that the person is deep in thought. Body language gives a lot away, but unless shoulders tense up or the person’s posture stiffens, they can’t know anything. And, frankly, I’d rather be shown the physical reaction, rather than the ‘you’re thinking too loud’.

3. This one is longer, so I’m going to show the whole quote. This one is a carbon copy of an instance that occurred in Lifeline (I’m guessing they either haven’t noticed or they were running out of inspiration). Though this scene is longer, it still feels too close to the other one.

From What No One Else Can Hear:

You cannot hear us in your room,” I said, hoping that was true. I hadn’t really thought about how thin the walls might be. My apartment was just a couple of rooms at the back of Dottie’s house. It wasn’t like there was any real distance between my bedroom and the rest of her house.

I’ll tape it for you sometime.” She grinned.

From Lifeline:

Sarah!” Dennis was mortified. “You cannot hear us all the way in the guest room.”

She smirked. “I’ll tape it for you tonight.”

The use of medical knowledge, again, is excellent, as it was in For Mac. There’s no question that all of the things that we experience in the book feel real and realistic. I even enjoyed the empath twist, which was new for me.

Characters

The characters were really different to what I’d come to expect from this author. Gone were the angry gay/bi men, afraid to come out, terrified of homophobia, gone were the physically and mentally abusive parents.

Instead, we had a neglectful father to Stevie, absent parents in both Drew and Jesse’s life and a grandmother figure in Dottie.

I loved the kids at the centre. Each one had their own personality, though the prognosis was, again, far from positive (also a theme of this author, to have mentally/physically handicapped characters with a lifelong condition that will have to be managed, will make them different or will outright kill them) This time, I let it pass because of the Author’s Note, which tells us that the author has actually worked with autistic children before, so I trust that this is all accurate information. I, myself, have two cousins on the autism spectrum, at different levels, but they lived abroad when they were younger, so I had no first hand experience of their symptoms until they had them fairly well managed.

Jesse was a good, solid character and he went through his fair share of difficulties. At times, especially at the end of the book (last 25% or so) it got a little rushed and incredulous; so much happened at once that it didn’t feel as real or authentic as the rest of the story.

Drew was just as great and just as real. I liked their dynamic together and the chemistry that brewed over time. However, my one problem with the relationships by this author is the ease and quickness with which they “slip up” and almost say ‘I love you’. It’s unrealistic, to me.

Stevie is a great character and made me smile and want to cry a few times. He’s charismatic and exactly the kind of character I want to read about.

But, I’m still cringing over the use of “kissy faces” which no grown man, even in their own thoughts, would say to another or even think. I would never even think of it or say it and I’m a female ten years younger than these characters. (P.S. It also pops up in Ray of Sunlight) It just doesn’t work for me.

Overall

The story was great, the plot was well executed and the characters were diverse and interesting. Though some parts of the writing/plot didn’t suit me, I can look past all of that and class it as personal taste. Other people might not care or might actually like those aspects.

This is a solid 4.5 star for me, but I’m happy to round it up to a 5. I could have been a straight 5, but there was some kind of emotional disconnect that wasn’t there with For Mac. Something about it that didn’t have the same impact with me. However, I enjoyed it and I didn’t want to kill any of the characters and – shock! – none of the characters were murdered, so it’s a 5.

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