A girl who can’t speak and a boy who can’t hear go on a journey of self-discovery and find support with each other in this gripping, emotionally resonant novel from bestselling author Sara Barnard. Perfect for fans of Morgan Matson and Jandy Nelson.Steffi doesn’t talk, but she has so much to say.
Rhys can’t hear, but he can listen.
Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life. The condition’s name has always felt ironic to her, because she certainly does not “select” not to speak. In fact, she would give anything to be able to speak as easily and often as everyone around her can. She suffers from crippling anxiety, and uncontrollably, in most situations simply can’t open her mouth to get out the words.

Steffi’s been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He’s deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she’s assigned to help him acclimate. To Rhys, it doesn’t matter that Steffi doesn’t talk. As they find ways to communicate, Steffi discovers that she does have a voice, and that she’s falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it. But as she starts to overcome a lifelong challenge, she’ll soon confront questions about the nature of her own identity and the very essence of what it is to know another person.




4 stars

I bought this book as I hope to meet Sara Barnard at YALC London this summer.

It had been on my radar for some time now as I like reading books about mental illness and this one just fall into that category.

I won’t enter into many details about the plot or the characters but will rather linger on some questions and thoughts that crossed my mind while reading it.

The plot is pretty simple as we will follow Steffi, soon seventeen years old and selective mute for years through her school year while her best friend left Tem left for college and a new deaf boy, Rhys arrived at her school.

This year she is determined to get better and prove to her parents that she can attend university.

It will be all about her struggle to dare speaking, about her falling for a boy and spreading her wings.

The journey will be far from easy and that’s what I loved most in the book as Sara Barnard did not try to write a hardly believable tale of everything improving at once.

There will be set back. Lessons to be learned. Limits to accept. But also dare to hope. Dare to believe that yes good things also happen to you.


What I loved in this book is that it made me think and open my eyes!

Here below are some quotes/excerpt to give you an idea and maybe make you ponder on what being selectively mute entails.


“The ten stupidest things people say to you when you don’t talk:

10)What if you were, like, dying or something?

9) What if I was dying?

8) Can you talk if you close your eyes?

7) Okay, but what if I close my eyes?

6) Cat got your tongue?

5) Just say something. Really, just anything, I don’t care.

4) Is your voice really weird or something?

3) You should just have a glass of wine.

2) Just relax.

1)You’re quiet.”


I think this excerpt really does give a very good idea of what Steffi has to fight against every day. How inadequate she feels. How stressed she can become with panic attacks and all.


The following one was the most eye opening for me because I could see myself falling into the category of these “people”:

“People like explanations and recovery stories. They like to hear that people get uncomplicatedly better. Kids like me, who struggle through their childhood years, juggling various diagnoses that try to explain their silence to their frustrated parents, who graduate from “mute” to “sever anxiety” but still can’t speak to shop assistants or call anyone on the phone, just confuse things. They say “It’s all in your head”. “It’s not real”.”

This made me truly realize that I could lose patience. That I could be puzzled and frustrated. That I also could judge or overlook.

And it made me realize what an ordeal their lives must be sometimes. How utterly exhausting this must be to try making people understand and accept you as you are.


There are tons of moments in that book that made me reconsider my position and really see what Steffi’s life was.

And that’s something that I really am looking for in my reads: to better understand. To broaden my horizon. To acknowledge other’s struggles. Because maybe one day I will meet a selective mute and then I will be able to show compassion, patience but not pity him or her. Maybe I’ll be able to put that person at ease and avoid any faux pas.


Just a last word about the YA romance which was cute, realistic and heartwarming. I wish every teenage girl to meet her Rhys.


Recommend it? Certainly if you love reading about mental illness.


Have you read it? Or any of her other books?


Thanks for reading!


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  1. I don’t think I have ever really met anyone who didn’t talk. I can honestly say that this would open my eyes too. I think this sounds like a great book. I will totally have to read this one. Great review Sophie!


  2. I have seen such raves for this book, including Sam’s review. I keep a list of books that I want to pick up from the library (if/when I don’t feel like reading anything of my own) and this one is on that list. I’ve never read about selective mutism but I really do like the sound of this one. Great review, Sophie!

  3. This was my final read of 2017, and it left me in such a good mood. I agree with everything you mentioned, but it’s that last thing, that is making me smile right now. This book had one of the sweetest and most precious romances, and like you said, every girl deserves her Rhys.