Review Blog

Aug 20 2012

Everything left unsaid by Jessica Davidson

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Pan Macmillan Australia, 2012. ISBN 9780330424950.
If you are looking for a sad story, then this book is for you. Best friends Juliet and Tai have no sooner become romantically involved than he is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour and given a year, at most, to live. This novel charts Tai's gradual decline in heartbreaking detail.
Tai and Juliet take turns to tell this story so we do get slightly different versions of events. Whilst Tai's focus is mainly on coming to terms with his new medical regime, Juliet tries to balance her grief with battling through her final year of school and impending exams.  
Tai and Juliet are certainly drawn as realistic characters, neither of whom is perfect. The inclusion of their families in this story also adds a realistic dimension to the story: neither Tai nor Juliet can act solely on their own instincts, they must take into account the needs and desires of those around them. And the detailing of Tai's hospital visits and meetings with counsellors, certainly strengthens the aura of credibility.
However, there is a slightly saccharine feel to the tale as well. Perhaps this is because there is a curious lack of dramatic tension in the novel. The blurb hints at the plot twist of Tai's illness, so it comes as no surprise. Furthermore, the suffering endured by Tai and Juliet is predictable and even their occasional moments of conflict are all too easily resolved. Perhaps also it is the unchanging mood of the story: there is little humour or tonal change to the way the story plays out, it is unrelentingly sad.
Whilst watching Tai gradually submit to the indignities of his illness, only the hardest of hearts would not feel sorry for his predicament but the reader may well feel like they have learned little from reading this story. Nevertheless, there is no doubt an audience of teen readers who will be quite happy to immerse themselves in the sadness of Tai and Juliet's situation, albeit with a tissue box at the ready.
Deborah Marshall

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