Sunday, January 18, 2009

What They Always Tell Us by Martin Wilson

James: Popular, smart, and athletic, James seems to have it all. But the only thing James really wants is his college acceptance letter, so he can get far away from Alabama after high school. He's tired of the same old parties; the tennis team; his so-called girlfriend, Alice; his ex, Clare - and especially his quiet younger brother Alex. In a town where secrets are hard to keep, everyone knows what Alex did at the annual back-to-school party. The only question is why.
Alex: With his friends no longer talking to him and his brother constantly in motion, Alex is prepared to get through junior year on his own. And he would if his ten-year-old neighbor, Henry, didn't keep showing up, looking for company. Even James seems intrigued by Henry, and by the strange cars that come and go from his house across the street. But what Alex cares about most is running, and when he's encouraged to try out for cross-country, he's surprised to find more than just a supportive teammate in his brother's friend Nathen.
(Summary from jacket flap)

Why has no one read this book?! I read one review of it a while back, but for the most part, What They Always Tell Us hasn't gotten then buzz it deserves. I hate it when I read an amazing book and then discover that no one's picked up a copy. So this fan girly post is my humble way to spread the word; What They Always Tell us is AMAZING.

The main thing that I was worried about going into the book was how Alex's homosexuality was going to be portrayed. I didn't want it to be forced or fake. Thankfully, I really didn't have anything to worry about; Alex's character was pulled off beautifully. My favorite thing about him was how his sexuality wasn't what he was all about. It was an important part of who he was, undoubtedly, but he had other things going on in his life; friends, his brother, running, Henry. It showed that, fundamentally, everyone's alike and should be treated as such. Alex and Nathen's relationship was a major point in the book, of course, but Martin Wilson made it seem natural and easy, which was just what I wanted.

I also really enjoyed the portions of the book that centered around James. I almost forgot about him at times, as I was getting wrapped up in Alex's story, but then James' emotions and attitudes grabbed my attention back. He's the guy who's got it all and who you're supposed to hate. And at the beginning I sort of did. He didn't seem to show any care for what was going on with his life or his brother, in particular. But then throughout the book, James started to grow on me. As he discovered who he was, I started to connect with him more and appreciate him more. He proved himself to be a really thoughtful and normal guy who just doesn't know how to deal with all of the craziness going around him.

The other thing that really made me love What They Always Tell Us, besides Alex and James, was its gritty real-ness. It was just real. The characters, the plot, the issues, the relationships; they were all real. And not in a boring way. Wilson took the real (like how much I've used that word?) life struggles of teens everywhere and made them interesting and striking. And he did it with almost nonchalance; like he was just putting the facts of the story out there for you to take and interpret however you wanted. I love that. My favorite books are the kind that are thoughtful and provocative and which don't shove their morals and conclusions in your face. I really enjoy being able to make of a story what I want. 

The beauty of What They Always Tell Us was that it was simple, real, and all-encompassing. It dealt with a plethora of issues, including suicide, homosexuality, popularity, bullying, and adultery. It's the book that gives you everything with an even and unbiased voice while still drawing you in. And I loved it. Completely loved it. Please go read it now.

***and for those of you doing the V.C. Andrews challenge, Flowers In The Attic was mentioned in this book - and I happen to be reading that next...weeeiiirrddd.
"He's wearing shades and reading a creepy novel about a grandmother who locks her grandchildren in an attic." Yeah.


  1. I haven't read this yet because I thought my library was going to get it and it turns out they got something else instead at the last minute. I was heartbroken. D:

    I'm saving for it; I'll probably get it my next big order from Amazon in what's become my habit of ordering a bunch of GLBTQ YA literature at the beginning of every year. :D

  2. I LOVED this book. I completely agree with it not getting enough praise. (Except I didn't exactly review it either....) But still, AMAZINGNESS.

  3. I got a copy of this from BookMooch probably 6 months ago, but there it sits because I had no review to incourage me to read it. Well now I have no excuse, a great review from one of my favorite book bloggers. Maybe it should jump up a bit in the TBR pile.

  4. Great profile on this book. I LOVE the cover. I am going to have to see if I can track it down.

  5. I met Martin at a party two summers ago! I've GOT to read it. Can't wait.

  6. Sounds great and original. I wonder where I can find this book.

  7. oooh, I haven't heard of this one! Now I want to read it!!!

  8. Sometimes the problem is getting your hands on a copy. Now I'm off on a noble quest to do just that! Thanks for the review.

  9. That sounds like a great book so I just added it to my shelfari account :). Can't wait until I actually have tie to read it.

  10. I just read it, and I'm so happy I found someone else who completely agrees with me on how extraordinary this book is! I loved it, it made me cry. Unfortunately I'm not likely to reccomend it to anyone because I'm in high school myself, and I'm surrounded by homophobes; I'm not willing to get verbally abused for it. I'll just spread the propoganda online. Please email me, I've found some fanastic places to buy the book cheap. :3

    - Lunah

  11. Thank god someone feels the same way about this book. What they always tell us is truly amazing, genuine and authentic. I totally agree with it not crossing the "preachy" line, it just tells us an amazing story.


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