The Words We Keep

Delacorte. Mar. 2022. 400p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781984848864.
Gr 9 Up–Three months ago, Lily, hinted at as white, found her older sister Alice on the bathroom floor having hurt herself. Since then, Lily has been trying to keep things together for her family and herself. However, she is thrown for a loop when Alice comes home from treatment earlier than expected. Then there’s Micah, Lily’s partner for a school poetry and art assignment and Alice’s friend from treatment. Micah, who is Latino, is determined to get Lily to process what Alice has gone through and her experience. Lily also has her own secrets, and the project she and Micah embark on may help bring them to light. Told entirely from Lily’s perspective, this story explores not only one’s own mental health but also the impact it has on those around them. Stewart authentically presents the subject matter and isn’t afraid to address the negative, including self-harm and the stigma facing those with mental illness. This book’s message—that people with mental illnesses are still human and trying to deal with their own problems of friends, family, and romance—is thoughtfully handled. Lily and Micah use poetry and art to express and explore their mental health, and Stewart presents it in a superb manner that allows readers to process and explore their thoughts and feelings. Certain aspects may be triggering for some, but those who can handle the subject matter are likely to find value in it.
VERDICT An excellent choice for library collections and book discussions.

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