From the Publisher
Ultimately, the novel's engaging jumble of correspondence amounts to a study of vulnerability, tentatively concluding that, when it comes to romance, playing it safe can be a risky approach.
The insight Jake gains from his self-imposed silve is satisfying, if not entirely profound. The insights readers will gain, however, are perhaps deeper, as Frank manages to convey a credible boy's-eye view on matters of the heart.
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
All in all, the author creates a story both clever and heartfelt.
The creafully constructed, seemingly accidental nature of Jake and Xandra's story combines the banal with the amateur pholisophizing of college, and invites interesting comparisons between sexual sophistication and real understanding of how to relate with others.
Frank's experiment is fascinating.
Talking = Trouble. Jake makes this equation after he bumbles into a stupid argument with his best friend. He pursues his new vow of silence in napkin notes and notebook jottings. Through all his penciled meanderings, he wonders about adolescence, that painful in-between time of conflicting impulses and obligations. As one reader noted, I Can't Tell You doesn't deliver easy answers: "It's messy like life itself."
After a falling out with his best friend and roommate, college student Jake concludes, "Don't want any words coming out of my mouth. All I do is mess them up," so he stops talking. The novel unfolds through notes he writes with his friends (which inspire copycats when he attracts attention from girls), journal entries (including messages to his twin sister, a "fetus ghost" who died in the womb) and unsent letters to his crush, Xandra, in which he reveals his true feelings for her. While the premise may be a bit of a stretch, the notes make for entertaining-and quick-reading. Frank (Better Than Running at Night) includes creative flourishes, such as drawings of the pudding Jake and Xandra splatter all over each other during one of their many play fights, the dorm setting is spot on, and Jake comes across as an authentic character. While the protagonist makes vulgar jokes, he's clever with words, and sensitive, too: Jake is hurt that his roommate Sean no longer wants to be his friend, and also by his parents' recent separation. Readers will easily understand why Jake's afraid to "risk everything" and confess how he feels to Xandra (even though his feelings are obvious, and readers may tire a bit of how long it takes to finally admit them). All in all, the author creates a story both clever and heartfelt. Ages 14-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
After he tells his best friend a secret that was best left unsaid, Jake, a college freshman, stops talking. Communication between Jake and others takes place in notebooks, on dry-erase boards, in email and on the back of napkins. At times, Jake is the only one writing and the reader must infer the other half of the conversation. Set in a college dorm and its surroundings, the story contains the staples of college life: drinking, sex, graphic language and insecurity concerning relationships. Elective mutism has become a common devise in young adult literature. Many, including E. L. Konigsburg in Silent to the Bone, have done it better, with a greater depth to the plot and characters that catch the readers' interest. Writing for an older audience, Frank is sure to touch a level of familiarity for many who are just entering college. But she falls short of achieving a novel that cannot be ignored. Even given the limitations of no spoken dialogue, there are many places where she could have given us more insight into Jake's character and made him someone the reader could identify with and feel sympathy toward. 2004, Graphia/Houghton Mifflin, Ages 16 up.
Wendy M. Smith-D'Arezzo
Every time Jake opens his mouth, disaster strikes. After a major fallout with his college roommate and best friend, Jake concludes that perhaps speaking is not the best means of communication for him, and he resorts instead to writing notes, e-mails, and the like. His new silence at first is jarring to those around him. Gradually, though, Jake's friend Xandra catches on and joins in. Jake senses that his initial attraction to Xandra is deepening as the two continue to communicate in a more intimate form. Xandra seems willing to remain just a friend, and Jake, now truly speechless, does not know how to reveal his feelings. This remarkable novel mixes epistolary (letter and diary) format with some aspects of the graphic novel to tell a time-honored story of what happens when one person in a friendship wants to be more than a friend. From letters and e-mails, notes on white boards outside dorm rooms, upside-down calculator notes, doodles in the margins of notebooks, and scribbles on tablecloths and napkins, Jake and Xandra's relationship grows and changes. Jake's letters to Xandra, his mother, teachers, and a twin sister who died and was absorbed in utero expand the story beyond the confines of two friends trying to negotiate their changing relationship. High school students looking for a change of pace will appreciate the novel's format and the story itself. Especially attractive to those readers will be the glimpse into college dorm life, replete with co-ed dorms, keggers, and Greek life. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2004, Graphia/Houghton Mifflin, 208p., $Trade pb. Ages 15 to18.
Teri S. Lesesne
Jake decides that "talking + me = trouble" after he has a fight with his best friend and says something he wishes he hadn't, so he quits communicating verbally and takes to writing instead. This novel is related in notes, e-mails, journal entries, and even a few drawings as Jake tries a new way to relate. But what about his relationship with Xandra? Does he dare to speak his mind (or send a letter) about how he feels about her? Are they just friends, or something more? This tale about communication, crushes, and college life, by the author of Better Than Running at Night, is quirky and engaging, full of the puns Jake loves. The unusual format may appeal to readers too. Some realistically raunchy language makes this suitable for mature students only. KLIATT Codes: SARecommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2004, Houghton Mifflin, Graphia, 208p., and (pb). Ages 15 to adult.
School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up-During a huge fight with his best friend and college dorm-mate, Jake says something he cannot take back. As a result, he decides to communicate with everyone by writing-using dry-erase boards, Post-its, stained napkins, etc.-figuring he can better control what he has to say by not opening his mouth. Friends at first find him weird, but then play along and decide it's cool. His mother is sure he is cracking up, but his father goes along with him. All the while, he's obsessed with trying to find out if Xandra likes him or, you know, likes him. Each character Jake interacts with is represented by a different typeface and, in some cases, a "handwriting key" might be helpful to keep track of who's who. This unique writing style makes for attentive reading-and guesswork-as readers eavesdrop on Jake's otherwise typical social life and try to decipher what is actually going on. His inner struggles with feelings, friendships, and forgiveness are believable, but despite the highly personal nature of the story, the correspondence comes across as somewhat removed and impersonal as readers witness Jake's struggle to understand himself and, oh, yeah, maybe-or maybe not-to win the girl.-Roxanne Myers Spencer, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
A romance in e-mail messages, passed notes, essays, and notice-board conversations. College freshman Jake stops speaking after an enormous fight with his roommate. He won't speak even to Xandra, whom he adores. Despite his sexual experience, he has never found romance with a female friend and his courtship of Xandra charms with its adolescent awkwardness. Jake and Xandra mark their friendship with written messages, friendly punches hard enough to leave bruises, catsup smeared in one another's hair, and terrible puns. But neither is able to speak-or write-of their growing romantic attachment. Frustrated by the stalled relationship, Xandra hooks up with a stranger. Jake's frustrating and silent semester comes to a satisfying conclusion that provides no easy answers or complete romantic closure and the method by which Jake regains speech is powerfully simple. The carefully constructed, seemingly accidental nature of Jake and Xandra's story combines the banal with the amateur philosophizing of college, and invites interesting comparisons between sexual sophistication and real understanding of how to relate with others. Compelling. (Fiction. YA)