What to Say Next

whattosayActually, David wears the headphones to keep him from feeling anxious, to help him cope with his symptoms of highly functioning autism.  He also makes notes in a notebook, to learn social norms and social cues, to remember names, and to make sense of all the parts of the world that confuse him.  These differences and his predilection for honesty and disclosure often get him in trouble.  So, when Kit sits at his table at lunch, David is surprised.

A month after her dad’s death in a car accident, Kit is looking for quiet, for a port in the storm of confusing emotions. Grief has somehow increased the distance between her and her friends, Violet and Annie, whose talking and laughing about inconsequential topics seems to indicate that grief is ephemeral.  So, she defects the company of her friends at their cafeteria lunch table in favor of what she believes will be David’s silence.

As she visits with David, however, Kit discovers that beyond the misleading labels and the cramped boxes that society assigns, she and David have a lot in common.  Although David is extremely literal and would prefer that all humans speak Loglan, a language system derived from mathematical principals of logic to avoid the frustrating ambiguity that often accompanies communication efforts, Kit claims that he’s good-weird, comforting, interesting, and refreshingly and brutally honest.  Kit eventually elicits David’s help with the Accident Project, hoping to make mathematical sense out of the inexplicability of her father’s death.  David’s computer-like brain, his attention to detail, and his math and physics prowess make him an exemplary candidate for this research.  But neither of the teens may be ready for what they discover on this path intended for recovery.

Ultimately, the novel What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum shares one character’s journey as she struggles to make meaning from something that feels completely devoid of sense and as she attempts to heal from the brokenness that life has bestowed.  The reader not only accompanies Kit as she learns to embrace suffering but also as she unlearns many of the “truths” she thought she understood about cultural identity, bullying, racism, human behavior, parenting, and friendship.

  • Posted by Donna

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