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What They Always Tell Us

by Martin Wilson

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3061284,299 (4.04)3
Sixteen-year-old Alex feels so disconnected from his friends that he starts his junior year at a Tuscaloosa, Alabama, high school by attempting suicide, but soon, a friend of his older brother draws him into cross-country running and a new understanding of himself.

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I got this from the bookshop "Gay's the Word" in London. About two years ago. I think I've had some kind of depression stopping me from actually reading all the shit I buy or something. Anyway, I've read it now!

Anyway the book was fine, a gay coming out/coming of age story, but nothing special for me. The printing was a bit crap, to be honest - on many pages the letters were out of line with each other.

The first chapter, where one of the main characters loses most of his friendships by attempting suicide at a party, and makes friends with his weird ten-year-old neighbour, was published before the rest of the book as a short story. It kind of shows, mainly because the book doesn't know what to do with the younger kid after that. He becomes a kind of weird sideshow character, turning up from time to time as a kind of secondary (yet interesting enough) drama as the book explores the mystery of his parentage. But it's ultimately folly, he kind of disappears towards the end.

The book switches points of view between two brothers, Alex and James. Alex falls in love and starts dating James's friend Nathen. James works it out, and fortunately isn't a dick about it, but they live in the rural South, so that can't be said for the rest of Alex's friends.

It has a bittersweet ending, and some of the plot points aren't fully resolved, but I think that's indicative of that stage of life. As with some other YA fiction I've read recently, I'm not really the target audience for this one. It can bit hit-and-miss whether I strongly identify with these books or not. ( )
  finlaaaay | Aug 1, 2023 |
Welcome to this book review !

This book was super profound, I loved the writing style ! I wanted to read a more psychological book for a while and I heard about this book. People told me it was good or seemed good, so I brought it and I am really happy I did buy it ! It was sad, but happy, I loved the self discovery in this book and the fact that you could see a brotherly bond being repared. I loved seeing Alex ( the younger brother who tried to commit suicide), discover more about himself, accepting himself and how much he hated the pity he could see in everyones eyes since the incident. When I fist started reading it, I thout that James(older brother) was such a douche, like really you don't tell someone, just after they tried to commit suicide, about how stupid they are and a "nutcase"... But as the story advanced you could see everything behind it, the blurry lines in the story became thicker and clearer, making you understand the action each character made. It was overall an amazing book, I loved it and plan on reading it a couple of times again, in the future !
I totally recommend this book !

-Bookarina :) ( )
  Karina-Valerie | May 22, 2015 |
What They Always Tell Us is about two brothers stranded on the divide between being "They" - adults - and "Us" - kids. James is a senior and Alex is a junior and both are struggling to see what their lives will hold for them past high school in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Alex (and his entire family, really) is recovering from a sort-of suicide attempt which has disconnected him from his so-called friends and his brother. Two events help to ignite Alex's interest in life again - he accidentally befriends Henry, the strange 10-year-old who lives across the street, and James' friend Nathen strikes up a friendship through encouraging Alex to join the cross-country team at school. Narration alternates between Alex and James in long contemplative, chapters as they are slowly drawn together again by the mystery surrounding Henry's parentage.

Wilson depicts the feelings and excitment of first love that blossom between Alex and Nathen as well as any author I've read - in this case it just happens to be between two boys. I found the lack of overwhelming angst surrounding the relationship refreshing without being too terribly unrealistic thanks to the boys' realization that they cannot let anyone know about their relationship maybe ever, but certainly not until they leave Alabama. The limited knowledge of the characters was also well conveyed - we never really know the motivations of several secondary characters just as James and Alex wouldn't be able to know their motivations; this means that even though the ending is basically happy, the loose ends aren't all tied up. I did think the secret of Henry's parentage was pretty obvious, but found that a minor flaw. It takes a few chapters to get to know the brothers and to care what happens to them, in part because Wilson's writing keeps us slightly removed. The quiet plot is definitely not action-packed, but this would be perfect for introspective teens and young adults. Overall, I found this highly enjoyable although it's not for every reader - I'm actually surprised it doesn't appear to be on any of the mock award lists I've been looking through. ( )
1 vote JenJ. | Mar 31, 2013 |
Now, here's a great way to spend weekend afternoons. Once I got into Chapter 3, I could not put down the book. I was really eager to know what would happen next. I could only imagine how difficult it was to get characters that would be well-liked by readers, and Martin Wilson pulled that off. There was enough curiosity to know what would happen to Alex and how his relationship with brother would go. Throw in Nathen, and it made the heart warm to know or half-believe that Alex would be alright eventually.

Even the secondary characters - Clare, Alice and Henry did not get in the way of the story-telling, but helped to make the story better.

I enjoyed reading the book. And proud that I own a copy. ( )
  starlight70 | May 6, 2012 |
James, a high school senior, intelligent and a leading member of the school tennis team, popular at school, his main concern this year is acceptance at his chosen college. He is starting to tire of his home town Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and beginning to see his friends for what they really are, the good or the shallow. He looks forward to next year and making a new start in a new place.

Alex, a high school junior, a year younger than his brother James, bright without excelling like James, now almost friendless following the near fatal and embarrassing incident of his own making at a party at the beginning of term. His one friend is Henry, the weird ten year old lad with vivid red hair from across the street.

Since Alex's incident relations between him and James have been rather awkward, although not as bad as between Alex and his old friends all of whom have deserted him. The story follows the two boys over the course of the academic year: James' guilt at the rift that has developed between his brother, Alex's growing friendship with Henry, James' girlfriends, and Alex being befriended by James' Nathan who persuades to him join the the cross country team.

Nathan, another senior, is Alex's saviour in more ways than one. Nathan's father is from India, his mother English; a close friend of James he is kind, caring and gentle; the occasion he meets Alex when they are both out running marks the start of a new friendship, and for Alex a very different one when eventually Nathan very gently and tenderly seduces him in the showers, much to Alex's delight - the two boys embark on close, intimate but secret relationship.

James has his own problems to contend with, the break up with Clare, his short but disastrous courtship with Alice; and of course his worries about Alex. Both boys worry too about Henry, and the mysteries surrounding him.

Since his friendship with Nathan Alex has been much happier, his family including James are proud of him, but then something happens that threatens to bring it all down. James recognising that something is wrong makes the effort to reestablish his close relationship with Alex, and to do what he can to help.

What They Always Tell Us is a beautiful story about brotherly love and acceptance, about the goodness of genuine kind hearted people. The two brothers are decent boys; over the course of the year they discover who their real friends are, but more importantly they establish a true bond of brotherly love.

It is for the most part well written, perhaps on occasion dwelling a little too much on the humdrum of daily life with little real purpose other than establishing the routine of these comfortably off privileged families. But the characters are well developed, Nathan is delightful, and contrasts with their less ambitious home-boy friends, Alex's ex-friends are shown up in their true less than admirable colours.

Despite the few shortcomings I loved this book, especially the developing relationship between Alex and Nathan, and the strength of the bond between James and Alex and how it is finally achieved ( )
1 vote presto | Apr 25, 2012 |
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To Mom and Dad--for everything

And in loving memory of

Eleanore Hubbard "Lolly" Wilson (1904-1992),

author, artist, and grandmother
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On a Saturday morning in November, Alex finds himself alone for the weekend, so he decides to break a few rules.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Sixteen-year-old Alex feels so disconnected from his friends that he starts his junior year at a Tuscaloosa, Alabama, high school by attempting suicide, but soon, a friend of his older brother draws him into cross-country running and a new understanding of himself.

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JAMES AND ALEX have barely anything in common anymore—least of all their experiences in high school, where James is a popular senior and Alex is suddenly an outcast. But at home, there is Henry, the precocious 10-year-old across the street, who eagerly befriends them both. And when Alex takes up running, there is James's friend Nathen, who unites the brothers in moving and unexpected ways.
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