Things We Couldn’t Say by Jay Coles is a multifaceted coming-out, coming-of-age, and coming-to-terms story. When the teen’s pastor father rejects his bisexuality, it rubs against the abandonment Gio feels since his mother left when he was little. As Gio navigates his relationship with his father, he tackles the complexities of religion, sexuality and self-acceptance.
Adding to his exploration of identity, Gio’s birth mother reaches out to him. Her desire to reinsert herself in his life causes considerable confusion. This new development leads Gio to tackle trauma and forgiveness as he attempts to move forward.
In this realistic novel, as a queer, Black teen in a tough neighborhood circumstances become even more challenging when he clicks with a new White student on his basketball team. Drawn together by common interests in music, basketball, and more, their racial differences require the pair to navigate bumps in their social life.
Another layer is added when David develops a crush on Gio which requires Gio to face his sexuality more openly. With tensions rising on many fronts, Gio works through myriad conflicting emotions towards his mother, David, and his community. His insights on these issues offer deep understanding.
This realistic novel tackles the complexities of religion and sexuality, trauma and forgiveness, and race and relationships, exploring how aspects of our identity intersect. It highlights the importance of our connections to self, others and the broader community as it surveys the many forms that love takes.