Author: Kylie Fornasier
Publisher: Penguin Teen Australia
Date of Publication: May 2016
Source: Purchased (early!) by reviewer
I hate the label Selective Mutism - as if I choose not to speak, like a child who refuses to eat broccoli. I've used up every dandelion wish since I was ten wishing for the power to speak whenever I want to. I'm starting to wonder if there are enough dandelions.
After losing her best friend that night, Piper Rhodes changes schools, determined that her final year will be different. She will be different. Then she meets West: school captain, star soccer player, the boy everyone talks about. Despite her fear of losing everything all over again, Piper falls in love - and West with her - without Piper ever speaking one word to him. But will it last?
I loved Kylie's first novel, Masquerade, and was eager to get a copy of this second novel. Fortunately, Penguin organised an author event at which they sold early copies, so I was able to get my hands on it around 6 weeks before release. Lucky me!
Piper can talk, and does talk, but only with her family. It's not that she doesn't want to speak to others, or even chooses not to speak to others; she is physically incapable of speaking, even when she desperately wants to.
After events at a party got out of hand and cost Piper her best friend, she decided to change schools. Starting again isn't easy, especially when you can't talk to your teachers or classmates. Not everyone is understanding of Piper's condition, but then she meets West. Although he's one of the popular kids, "royals" as Piper calls them, he seems willing to give Piper a chance. As their friendship develops, Piper and West find themselves falling for each other, but Piper's selective mutism is a barrier between them. Surely if she likes West and trusts him she should be able to speak to him?
Life isn't perfect for West either. He feels the pressure of his peers and parents to be someone he isn't. With Piper he can be himself.
I've had students with selective mutism so I thought I knew a bit about the condition. I didn't. Kylie does such a good job with Piper that we really come to understand the condition and how it effects her day to day life, without feeling lectured to or preached at.
I really liked the way the relationship between Piper and West developed. It really highlighted the way an anxiety condition such as Piper's impacts on relationships. Through a school project, they find themselves revealing the things they can't say to each other to a pair of trees.
The ending is beautiful and unexpected, and I did shed a few tears.