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How to Say I Love You Out Loud by K.A.Cozzo5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Jordyn’s always wanted to fit in more than she’s wanted to stand out. Until she realizes there’s something, or someone, she wants even more than that.

For Jordyn Michaelson, having a severely Autistic sibling means her wants or needs never come first. It means keeping friends from her new school at a distance and hiding the truth about her brother Phillip. She’s lost friends because of her brother before. She refuses to be once again known as nothing more than “Phillip’s sister.”

So she’s settled for friend status with Alex Colby, even though she still clings to the memory of one steamy kiss last summer. Even though she’s in love with him. Not that it matters anyway, because Alex is with Leighton Lyons now. Confident, competitive field hockey all-star Leighton goes after whatever she wants. Jordyn could never go up against someone like that. Jordyn’s kept her feelings and desires hidden away for so long, she’d have no idea how to begin anyway.

When Phillip’s private school closes and he’s forced to join Jordyn at image-conscious Valley Forge High, she’s desperate to keep her sibling status hidden. But secrets are always more complicated than they seem, and before long Jordyn has alienated her friends and gained some very unwanted attention from Leighton. The only person who seems to have her back anymore is Alex, if only Jordyn could put her trust issues aside and let someone in. When Alex hints at lingering romantic feelings, will Jordyn take a risk and go for it, even if it means letting someone see the real her? Or will Jordyn stay silent and let one last chance with Alex slip away for good?

My Review
This story hooked me from the first chapter. Jordyn has a secret and I was dying to know what it was. Plus there’s a guy who’s both cute AND hot, which is a nearly irresistible combination, and she can’t be with him because of the secret? Yeah, my interest was piqued.

When I found out Jordyn’s big secret, my feelings about the book blossomed. This was no longer just a teen romance, but was now a deeper story dealing with very real, contemporary issues faced by very real people.

Nearly everyone knows at least one family dealing with autism. In fact, we know three families with autistic children. In the United States, autism impacts one in 88 children — more than two million — and tens of millions worldwide.

The issues Jordyn faces are not unique to her, but her reaction and the ways in which she copes are all her own. It’s hard enough being a teen girl, harder still when you’re the new girl in town, add to that an autistic brother who’s suddenly attending your exclusive high school, and you have a recipe for disaster. Author K.A. Cozzo brings it all to a beautifully crafted climax and satisfying conclusion.

Plot
The plot is intelligent, nuanced, and layered. Jordyn struggles to get through 60 days without anyone finding out that Phillip is her brother. In the meantime, she watches Alex’s relationship with Leighton, captain of her field hockey team, unfold in front of her, twisting the knife deeper. And underlying it all is Jordyn’s inability to speak her mind, stand up for what she believes in, and take control of her life.

Characters
Jordyn is incredibly likeable despite her faults. You pull for her because you want her to see that life can be so much more than she’s making of it. You can’t help feeling her pain — loving someone who will never be able to express their love back and watching the boy you secretly adore be with someone else. Gosh, I just want to hug her.

And then there’s Alex Colby. He is my new book boyfriend. It was Aiden St. Delphi from the Covenant series, and I never believed anyone would be able to knock him off his perfect pedestal, but Alex Colby has done just that. While not perfect, Alex is perfectly flawed in a way that only makes me love him more.

The supporting cast is limited because this is primarily Jordyn’s story, but her mother is well-fleshed out as is Leighton. They are solid, believable characters that add depth and conflict.

Bottom Line
Autism is real and the author handles the topic deftly, never whitewashing it, nor making it more than it is. This is a deep story filled with longing, hope, love, acceptance and forgiveness, with undertones of redemption that comes from learning to speak out loud for yourself and for others. The friendship and love between Jordyn and Alex feels authentic, and heartbreaking, and beautiful. This story has something for readers of all ages. Don’t let the category be your guide.

Title: How to Say I Love You Out Loud
Author: K.A. Cozzo
Publisher: For a limited time, available to read for free at SwoonReads
Pages: 194
Category: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links to PurchaseSwoonReads