Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2022) Featured Review of Things We Couldn’t Say by Jay Coles

Things We Couldn't Say Cover Art

Things We Couldn’t Say by Jay Coles
Scholastic Press
Publication Date: September 21, 2021
ISBN: 978-1338734188

Gio’s life is complicated… not because he is bisexual. Not because of his father’s drinking problem. Gio’s life is complicated because his mother, who he has not seen or heard from in eight years, is back in town. She wants to meet and talk, but Gio is confused. Should he forgive her? Should he tell her that she gave up her chance to be in his life? Adding to Gio’s confusion is the attractive new boy that he meets in school. Are they friends? Or more than friends? There are no simple answers, but Gio is bound and determined to figure things out anyway.

Jay Coles tells the powerful story of a guy trying to figure out first love and who he wants to be while being unsure who to trust or lean on for support. The issues of sexuality, identity, and parental abandonment are skillfully and sensitively addressed. As each character in the story develops and grows, readers can feel the relationships between them strengthening and deepening in a hopeful, uplifting way, even as Gio must make difficult decisions about his mother’s involvement in his life. 

For books that address similar issues with heart and hope, point readers in the direction of Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun by Johnny Garza Villa, When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk, All Boys Aren’t Blue and We Are Not Broken by George M. Johnson, and Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas. 

Beth Slade (she/her) and Allie Stevens (she/her)

Other Nominated Titles

  • Rainbow in the Dark by Sean McGinty (August 10, 2021)

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination. 

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten. The previous years’ lists are available on The Hub.