Everything Left Unsaid is based around a year in the lives of Juliet and Tai. Juliet and Tai have been best friends since pre-school. They’ve scraped their knees together, gotten into trouble together, gone to school together, and now, in their last year of school, they are falling in love together.
Part of life is death and, this year, Juliet and Tai are going to find out all about how fragile life really is and what really matters.
Jessica Davidson’s second novel is competently and compellingly written – I stayed awake until 1am reading and crying right to the end. That said, the way that the teachers and the school react to Tai diagnosis, and subsequently Juliet’s needs, didn’t feel quite right to me (I work in a school and think that the school would have been much more involved than was represented here), and the tone of the book is unremittingly dark and despairing. From the opening page:
“Tai’s laughing…He’s standing so close to me I can see the scar on his eyebrow from the time we jumped off the roof of his house, holding umbrellas in an attempt to fly. He grins, before slowly, purposefully, breathing on me, on that tender spot where collarbone and neck meet. Once he’s done with the germ-sharing he pulls back, flicking his hair out of his eyes, preening. It took him three weeks to convince his mum to let him get that haircut, the kind with the slanty fringe that hangs into his eyes on one side. She’s still not convinced, but he loves it, and has started using my sunnies as a mirror to make sure it looks okay.”
This Tai sounds fun; he sounds like he loves life, and will risk life and limb to be fun and daring, and has the persistence to spend three weeks convincing his mum to let him get his hair cut. From the moment Tai receives the news of his illness from his doctor he becomes morose and basically gives up, which is not how I thought that the character introduced at the start of the book would have reacted.
Juliet’s passive acceptance of the new Tai was frustrating. Although she is reacting to his behaviour I felt that she, too, would have fought harder for her boyfriend – she’s only just found him, for goodness sake!
Overall, though, this was an entertaining read, with believable dialogue, and entertaining supporting characters, particularly Tai’s mum, Mai, who is beautifully realistic – alternatively hopeful and despairing over the health of her son. And Tai and Juliet feel like real teenagers on the cusp of adulthood and struggling with the most difficult emotion of all to deal with – grief.