Disappointment has been on speed dial in Ellen Grayson’s life lately. Her dad died, her mom numbs the grief with drugs and alcohol, and her so-called friends have slowly abandoned her.
Trusting a popular teacher with her troubles should have been safe and should NOT have led to an unwelcome seduction attempt that made her desperate to escape the final moments of Junior year. Lesson learned. Best to keep all the sordid details to herself and trust no one.
Enter Rex Jacobi, a cocky boy, recently transplanted from New York City and fellow summer camp employee. Though his quick wit and confidence draws her in, she can’t let him get too close. And summer is just long enough and hot enough to keep a boy like that at arm’s length.
But by the time Rex’s charm wears down her resistance, it’s too late. He’s put Ellen on the “just friends” shelf and has shifted his romantic attentions to the impossibly annoying and perky anti-Ellen. Even worse, the teacher who tried to get her to sleep with him is still at it, preying on other girls while Ellen struggles to come to terms with what happened.
With her ability to trust as shaky as a chastity vow on prom night, Ellen must decide if she has enough remaining courage to speak up about the well-liked teacher and risk retribution, tell Rex how she really feels about him and risk heartbreak, or hold all her secrets inside. After all, it’s the only safe place she knows when the only thing louder than words is the fear of being rejected.
This is one of those young adult novels I didn’t want to end because as soon as I finished it, I missed the characters. Ellen Grayson is so multi-dimensional, she very nearly becomes a living breathing person. There’s a lot going on with her, in addition to longing for new boy, Rex Jacobi, she’s dealing with her father’s death and her mother’s spiral into drug addiction. If it wasn’t for her devoted older brother, she’d be in foster care. She has body image issues, only a handful of friends because she pushed everyone else away, and her favorite teacher put the moves on her. Like many teens in her situation, she harbors guilt, humiliation, and about a dozen other things as a result of her teacher’s behavior and keeps the incident a secret, hoping to put it behind her.
With all of that going, Louder Than Words, at its core is a sweet teen romance. Her relationship with Rex is the best part. I love their playful banter and the way he truly cares about her as a friend first and foremost. It’s painful to watch her feelings develop into something more as Rex turns his romantic attentions to petite, pretty Gracie. The book touches on so many topics, from unrequited love, to family loss, friendship, loyalty, and bullying, but does all of it really well, never sacrificing one to focus on another.
Louder than Words has a complex plot with a lot going on, but underlying the subplots is the thread of Ellen and Rex. Watching their friendship flourish is delightful. I could feel Ellen’s angst as she watches the boy she’s fallen for date someone else. She has a lot going on in her life and she doesn’t have a lot of experience with relationships to begin with, but she pegs Rex as a player and doesn’t want to set herself up for heartbreak. The plot unfolds with impeccable pacing, allowing the reader to get sucked into the ebb and flow that is their friendship, feeling Ellen’s longing while also understanding her fears. I cheered for her when she finally digs deep to find the strength to stand up for what she believes is right.
Iris St. Clair’s characters are solid. Ellen is really well developed. It was easy to understand her motivations even if I didn’t necessarily agree with her. But I can identify with the sixteen-year-old girl hiding out in the bathroom stall to get away from her lecherous teacher. I understand why she didn’t tell anyone, even though the adult in my wanted her to speak up.
Rex is adorable as the New York transplant who befriends Ellen. He clearly wants more than a platonic friendship but doesn’t hesitate to move on when she makes it clear she’s not interested. I love that he pursues a relationship with her outside of romance, showing that he isn’t just into her for physical reasons.
Ellen’s brother, Robbie, is equally well-developed with his own issues. He’s the hero in this story for putting his life on hold to raise Ellen when their mom checks out.
I love Louder Than Words. It’s one of those books that left me feeling good and wanting to read more by Iris St. Clair.
I was provided a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book
Title: Louder than Words
Author: Iris St. Clair
Publisher: Swoon Romance
Release Date: September 16, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon
About the Author
Iris St. Clair is the pen name for a long-suffering cubicle worker by day, a Walter Mitty-like dreamer by night. (Her alter ego Tatiana Ivanadance also choreographs gravity-defying routines in those fantasies, but that’s another bio.)
No matter what genre she writes, she prefers witty, insecure heroines and kind, persistent heroes able to break through to the gooey heart inside.
In high school she was voted most likely to win at Monopoly and Clue, but least likely to throw a ball anywhere near a target. Thank goodness writing requires less hand-eye coordination, punctuation errors notwithstanding.
Iris believes in the two-year “fish or cut bait” dating rule and has a 20+ year marriage and two teenaged sons as proof of concept. She lives, writes, dreams and dances in the rainy Portland, OR area.
$10 Amazon gift card + ebook of Louder Than Words (INT)