Review: What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Tell Me Three Things comes a charming and poignant story about two struggling teenagers who find an unexpected connection just when they need it most. For fans of Sophie Kinsella, Jennifer Niven, and Rainbow Rowell.

Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world.

KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they? I don’t even understand.

DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her.

When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David. Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?

Last year I loved Julie Buxbaum’s Tell Me Three Things and I was really hoping to love What to Say Next just as much. At first, I didn’t think I would. I even put this one down to read something out before coming back to it. I’m so glad I kept reading, though, because I did end up really enjoying it.

I LOVE DAVID DRUCKER. I love him! While I wasn’t sold on the story from the very beginning, I was sold on David pretty much instantly. He’s such a different character than I’ve read before. He’s on the Autism spectrum and while I’m not exactly qualified to comment on how realistic a portrayal it was, it did seem pretty realistic to me. There were several times he reminded me a little of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. He was sweet and funny and so, so honest. I just adored him. He went through some heartbreaking moments in this book and I loved seeing him end up stronger because of it. I also really loved his relationship with his sister.

It took a little longer to warm up to Kit. She’s grieving the recent death of her father and while I think it could be cathartic for readers who are going through similar circumstances, it was a little redundant. I kind of feel awful saying that because I know there are stages of grief that everybody goes through at different rates and if it was me I would probably be much the same, but at the same time it made her kind of unlikable for awhile. (I also thought this particular storyline was a little too similar to one in Buxbaum’s last book.) However, as she learned to deal with things in a more emotionally healthy way she became a lot more likable. And her friendship with David made me like her even more. My biggest problem with her storyline has to deal with her father’s accident. I felt like there was supposed to be a bit of a mystery surrounding it, but I thought it was obvious and was a little annoyed that it wasn’t “revealed” until close to the end. It brought with it an extra bit of drama I didn’t feel was really necessary.

The story is told in dual 1st person POVs. At first I didn’t think it worked and wished we only had David’s POV. I felt like David and Kit’s stories didn’t really go together. It almost felt like reading two different books with a couple of shared scenes. Once David and Kit started to spend more time together and be a bigger part of each other’s lives, though, I started to really appreciate the style. Also, Buxbaum nailed their individual voices. There was never a time when I didn’t know which character I was reading. I also absolutely loved being in David’s head.

Overall, What to Say Next started out a little rough for me, but I ended up really loving it. I loved the growing relationship between David and Kit and watching David learn how to better interact with those around him. David Drucker has become one of my favorite characters of all time. I definitely recommend this one.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars