The Things I Didn't Say, by Kylie Fornasier

I hate the label Selective Mutism – as if I choose not to speak, like a kid who refuses to eat broccoli. I’ve used up every dandelion wish since I was ten wishing for the power to speak whenever I want to. I’m starting to wonder if there are enough dandelions.

Piper Rhodes doesn’t talk to strangers. But far from this being a sign of following parental rules, her silence seems inexplicable. She can talk at home, and to people she knows well, but at school and in the community, words fail her. This causes lots of problems, but as she starts at a new school for her final year of schooling, Piper is never more aware of just how problematic it can be. Teachers think she’s being rude, and making friends is difficult. Then there’s West: the school captain, soccer-star, boy who has it all. He seems intent of getting to know her, even if it means writing notes.

Selective Mutism is a difficult condition to live with and for other people to comprehend. Even the name is problematic, as Piper complains, implying a ‘selection’ or choice being made. The Things I Didn’t Say is a wonderful exploration of the challenges it holds for one teen character, at the same time as being just a great read about friendship, peer pressure, and parental expectation. Piper has changed schools by choice after losing her best friend following a drunken party, and at the new school finds both new friends and new enemies. West, who appears to have it all, also has struggles, particularly with meeting the expectations his parents have of him. Their seemingly unlikely relationship blossoms through notes and text messages, but is threatened by people around them.

An excellent young adult read.

The Things I Didn’t Say, by Kylie Fornasier
Penguin, 2016
ISBN 9780143573630

Crimson Dawn, by Fleur McDonald

Sean cleared his throat and stood up. ‘Laura, we know how much you love farming and Nambina. It’s that sort of love I have never understood or had, and it’s why today we are passing the reins of it over to you, darling girl….I believe you are destined for greatness within the ag industry…we can’t wait to watch and see what happens and where it ends up.’

When Laura Murphy is handed the reins of the family property, she hopes that she can justify the trust placed in her. She sets to work building her breeding program and establishing a school to teach young women farming and property management skills. She is independent, strong and determined to succeed.

Not everything is perfect though. Laura is haunted by a personal tragedy which cost her a friendship and broke up her relationship with Josh, from the neighbouring property. Her latest batch of students have started off strongly, but seem to splintering as a group as the year goes by. And a solicitor has notified her that someone else has a claim over Nambina. It’s going to take all her strength to keep it all together.

Crimson Dawn is a rural novel of courage, family and survival. With elements of mystery and romance, and a slit narrative which gradually reveals the details of the family split which lead to the property claim, there is a lot happening in the story, but McDonald weaves the varying threads together strongly.

An absorbing, satisfying story of outback life.


Crimson Dawn, by Fleur McDOnald
Allen & Unwin, 2014
ISBN 9781743315316

Available from good bookstores or online.