A little while ago the lovely Emma from Never Judge A Book By Its Cover and I launched Let’s Talk YA. You can check out all of the books I’ve previously recommended, all of which are incredible UKYA books that I think need to be shouted about more.
Today, I’m discussing the absolutely phenomenal All The Things We Never Said by Yasmin Rahman.
Trigger warnings: Suicide, suicidal thoughts, suicide pact, self harm (cutting), sexual abuse, death of a family member, attempted rape and mentions of past rape.
16-year-old Mehreen Miah’s anxiety and depression, or ‘Chaos’, as she calls it, has taken over her life, to the point where she can’t bear it any more. So she joins MementoMori, a website that matches people with partners and allocates them a date and method of death, ‘the pact’. Mehreen is paired with Cara Saunders and Olivia Castleton, two strangers dealing with their own serious issues.
As they secretly meet over the coming days, Mehreen develops a strong bond with Cara and Olivia, the only people who seem to understand what she’s going through. But ironically, the thing that brought them together to commit suicide has also created a mutually supportive friendship that makes them realise that, with the right help, life is worth living. It’s not long before all three want out of the pact. But in a terrifying twist of fate, the website won’t let them stop, and an increasingly sinister game begins, with MementoMori playing the girls off against each other.
A pact is a pact, after all.
Why I Love It:
This is a dark and intense book, as you may have been able to tell from the trigger warnings, but it is also absolutely brilliant.
Mental health is such an important topic and sadly, as as this article explains, the suicide rates amongst teenagers in the UK have almost doubled in eight years. Books like this are incredibly powerful, important and timely, encouraging us to open up a dialogue about mental health that is needed so badly. I am deeply passionate about mental health and challenging the stigma around it, based off my personal experiences with friends and family. Often the voices of young people are dismissed and that needs to change.
Mehreen, Cara and Olivia were instantly memorable, each with their own disnticive point of view. The variation between their viewpoints in the chapters was cleverly written, with each character having a unique style of writing attached to their chapters, like Mehreen’s Chaos bursting onto the page or Olivia’s being written in verse. They all felt like people I know or have known in my year group, making the story that much more accessible and captivating. Like always, I love well-rounded characters that have opportunities to grow over the course of the book and these three gave me that in bucketloads.
The diversity was also great to see, with the Muslim, disabled and LGBT+ communities being represented, but only as an aspect to the character and not as their sole characteristic. Rahman was sensitive in discussing the way their identities intersected with their approach to mental health and the stigma around it. Cara’s struggle with becoming a wheelchair user after a car accident and the helplessness sometimes associated with it really hit home for me, as a close family member of mine is disabled. I really liked the juxtaposition of Mehreen’s inner dialogue during prayer in the book’s opening pages with the contrast between her peace and the emergence of her Chaos.
The focus on friendship and particularly strong, complex female friendship at the core of the book was something that I really loved. The way these three flawed, broken, realistic teenagers interacted and tried to navigate was so heartbreakingly relevant. Ultimately the book is about grief, love and the rocky road to recovery, without ever belittling the struggles of the characters.
I was so glad that I got to meet Yasmin at YALC and personally thank her for writing such a powerful book that I know I will treasure for a long time to come.
Have you read All The Things We Never Said? What did you think?
As always, please check out Emma’s blog for her recommendation and we will be talking on Twitter, so please get involved and use the hashtag #LetsTalkYA.