Disney Hyperion October 2, 2018

Words We Don't Say



2020 Milwaukee County MCTBA Teen Book
Award Nominee

"In a debut filled with heart and wit, Reilly draws a memorable portrait of a teen struggling with big problems beyond his control . . . this novel traces with remarkable sensitivity how a vulnerable adolescent becomes less absorbed in his own suffering as he reaches out to others.”

                                   Publishers Weekly

A high-interest read for its exploration of complex topics without simple answers.

                                          Kirkus Review

. . . distinct and authentic voices . . . heartwarming . . . thoughtful . . . 

                              School Library Journal

“Just about any publishing professional will tell you that "voice" is one of the most important — and usually one of the most difficult — elements to capture in writing . . .  I am not, nor was I ever, a 17-year-old boy. I do, however, remember being a junior in high school and reading about another 17-year-old boy named Holden Caulfield. Joel Higgins's voice is just as strong as Holden's, but far more contemporary. . . Words We Don't Say was an easy read that packed some hefty punches. It made me cry on two different occasions, definitely a mark of excellence.  

                                         NPR Book Review

"Told in fractured vignettes that slowly converge to an emotional conclusion, Joel's story explores themes of death, mental illness, and the effects of trauma on ordinary people-all without settling on definitive answers for why good people must sometimes suffer. Every character feels flawed and real, as do their struggles to find hope amid the horrors in the world. Reilly's book offers readers a work of profound truth that will linger long after a reader finishes the final page."―Booklist

"John Green vibe with its quirky characters and snappy dialogue."


YALSA 2019 Quick Pick for Reluctant YA Readers Nominee!

Buzz Books 2018: Young Adult Fall/Winter

What She Reads List of The Best YA Books of 2018!

"Easily one of the best books of the year, Words We Don’t Say reads like a modern day Catcher In The Rye."

"My New Year’s Resolution is to put Words We Don’t Say by K.J. Reilly into the hands of every Teenager I know."

Loup City Public Library review

Words We Don’t Say by K.J. Reilly is a priceless book that touches on some of the most heart wrenching topics facing society and our teens today. This book will make you laugh out loud and cry and cross your fingers for all the people you meet along the way. Just an absolute delight to read and an unforgettable book.

Highly recommended for 8th grade and up.

O’Neill Middle School in Downers Grove, IL.

What readers are saying!

"WORDS WE DON'T SAY is joining my limited list of best books ever!"

"Words We Don’t Say by K.J. Reilly is priceless book that touches on some of the most heart wrenching topics facing society and our teens today!" 

"My favorite YA book of the year so far!"

“An Evan Hansen vibe . . .”

“F*&%ing AWESOME!”


“Holden Caulfield with a conscience ...”

“Absolutely stunning . . ." 

“. . . raw and vivid and incredibly heartbreaking!”

“. . . funny and endearing . . .” 

“. . . simply rips your heart in two in all of the best ways!”

“Stunningly real!”

“. . . gorgeous and complex!”

"...absolutely PHENOMENAL! Engaging and raw and so unique! I haven't read any other book like this one. So, so fantastic."

“An amazing read . . .”

"The cast of perfectly developed characters stole my heart!"

“I loved this book!”

". . . a gut-wrenching YA novel!"

"Sweet and adorable and heart-rending!"

 "... a laugh-out-loud, stream of consciousness style voice!"

"Higgins is a less problematic, modern day Holden Caulfield."  

"The rawest and realest depiction of PTSD and anxiety that I have ever read. A must read!"

Find it on Goodreads! 

Sixteen-year-old Joel Higgins is wound tight and hanging on by a thread. And for a very good reason—the world is flawed and it’s failed him. Joel has a crush on Eli but he’s afraid to let her know. His best friend Andy’s gone. Then there’s Benj, the annoying new kid who MIGHT HAVE KILLED HIS PARENTS. Plus, there’s the never ending stream of homeless and hungry people lined up at the soup kitchen where Joel and Eli do community service, the veteran with PTSD living in the shanty behind the Richardson’s farm, Eli, the plastic bag Joel has stashed in the back of his garage, drivers ed, the monsters in the closet, the cake with sprinkles, Eli, the banned books, the Auto Fs, the eggs and asparagus, Rooster, the mouse from Harry Potter, God, Hendricks Street Will Smith, the game of What if, Mr. Stanley and the Morse code, Eli, Winnie-the-Pooh, chocolate milk, Burning Man, Eli, the unsent text messages, the Corvette Stingrays and the 10.7 million kisses. And Eli. Pretty much in that order.

Find it on Goodreads! 

Enter the Goodreads Giveaway!

"Not since How I Live Now have I read a novel so well-written in what I like to call first-person panic . . . everyone in high school ought to read it."

"Dramatic, comedic, heart aching and sincere . . . a treasure to read, share and enjoy!" 

"Joel made me laugh and cry and think, and that is about as good as a book can get!"  

"Words We Don’t Say broke my heart with the awareness it brings to homeless Vets and PTSD"

"Really hard to put down!"

“An amazing coming of age story. . .”

“I think I might secretly be Joel Higgins!”

“Loved the voices!”

"My favorite book of all those I read and reviewed this summer!"

"A must read!"

". . . one of my favorite contemporary novels of the year!"

". . . a beautiful debut novel that I cannot recommend highly enough."

"I wish I could give it more than 5 stars!"

“A terrific YA read!”

“An important book . . .”

"5 incredible stars!"

"This book is laugh-out-loud funny, thoughtfully introspective, and honestly moving. Most of all, this book made me hopeful for the next generation of voices."


Thank you Clare!

September to December 2018 Dewey Pick!

Words We Don’t Say is an OCTOBER 2018 ALAN PICK!

ALAN (Assembly of Literature for Adolescents) of the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English)