What They Always Tell Us by Martin Wilson
"Thoughtful and moving, What they Always Tell Us is a powerful debut novel about the bond between two brothers—and the year that changes everything.
JAMES: Popular, smart, and athletic, James seems to have it all. But the only thing James really wants is his college acceptance letter, so he can get far away from Alabama. In a town where secrets are hard to keep, everyone knows what Alex did at the annual back-to-school party. The only question is why.
ALEX: With his friends no longer talking to him and his brother constantly in motion, Alex is prepared to get through junior year on his own. And he would, if his ten-year-old neighbor, Henry, didn't keep showing up, looking for company. What Alex cares most about is running, and when he's encouraged to try out for cross-country, he's surprised to find more than just a supportive teammate in his brother's friend Nathen."- summary from Martin Wilson's website
This book was a refreshing read after all the fast-paced, quick adventures I'd been reading. Wilson's debut is more character-based than plot-based and, because of that, is quieter than a lot of books out there right now. It's a fantastically written debut that goes back and forth between two brothers over the course of a year and the change that comes over them during that time. It was a bit weird reading in third person, even though I've gotten used to it; for some reason, it just didn't feel right to me sometimes.
Being a gay man, I found myself wanting more of Alex's chapters and less of James' which I know is very selfish. I did enjoy James' story but Alex's rang more true to me and so I identified with it more. The romance in his part was just very swoon-worthy in my mind and I want my own Nathen now. It was nice to read a book that didn't have a lot of angst associated with the main character realizing he's gay. Alex just accepted it and moved on, much like how I did, though I didn't have a hot guy to help me figure it out.
Wilson spends a lot of time making his characters fully three-dimensional and he did a great job of conveying a lot of emotions subtly. Like I said before, it's a very quiet book and it's one that you want to just curl up and spend your time with.
One character that's a constant between the two stories is a young boy named Henry and there's a whole sub-plot mystery going on with him which was fun to read. He was a great inclusion into the book because he befriended both of the brothers and helped them change over the year. I don't know, I just really liked his character- very smart and perceptive.
Overall, a wonderful, coming-of-age debut that makes me eager to read more of Wilson's writing.
back to main page