WHISPER TO ME by Nick Lake
Bloomsbury | May 3, 2016 ~ 544 pages | Buy it: IndieBound ~Amazon
Cassie is writing a letter to the boy whose heart she broke. She’s trying to explain why. Why she pushed him away. Why her father got so angry when he saw them together. Why she disappears some nights. Why she won’t let herself remember what happened that long-ago night on the boardwalk. Why she fell apart so completely.
Desperate for his forgiveness, she’s telling the whole story of the summer she nearly lost herself. She’s hoping he’ll understand as well as she now does how love—love for your family, love for that person who makes your heart beat faster, and love for yourself—can save you after all.
I like smart books. I like books that start conversations on important topics without shoving an opinion down my throat. I like epistolary books. And, as a child who never found her name on anything at a personalized keychain kiosk, I have a soft spot for books with characters named Cassie.
So “Whisper to Me” checked a lot of boxes for me. It’s hard to really get into what I liked most about this book without spoiling the ending for anyone, but I think it makes most sense to say that I like the book’s simplicity. There were times when I got nervous, worried that the action/serial killer half of the book was going to take over and send the story into less believable territory. But I needn’t have worried. Lake balanced the story with a careful hand, and at every point, it felt authentic.
This is a story about a young girl with a mental illness. But it doesn’t define her. And it doesn’t mean that anyone should look at her any differently. This is a book about a girl living a life under hard and extraordinary circumstances, and learning to be comfortable in her own skin. Cassie is explaining herself to someone she hurt, and so this book is one long letter, stream of consciousness that is very realistically and powerfully done. The explanation is for him, but the process of explaining is for her, and that distinction is clear important.
This is a book that many readers may not find satisfying. They may say there is not enough closure. I disagree. I applaud Nick Lake for his ending, because it starts a conversation, and that conversation is one that, in this day and age, we dearly need to have.
I don’t know if this is a book “for the ages” — there were a lot of formatting errors in my advance PDF copy, which took me out of the story as I tried to decipher what I had missed — but it is a book for our time, and that, I think, is enough.