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I first read this fantastic book as an early draft and absolutely loved it. I was thrilled when the author and my friend, K.A. Cozzo, submitted the manuscript to SwoonReads, a division of MacMillan publishing. Yesterday, it was announced she’d been selected by them for publication. I’m not even a little bit surprised. The story is wonderful, her voice is unique, and the writing is inspiring.

I reviewed this book back in April, but I think it deserves a second posting, along with links so you can find out how to preorder a copy.

Title: How to Say I Love You Out Loud
Author: K.A. Cozzo
Publisher: SwoonReads
Release Date: August 4, 2015
Pages: ~194
Category: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodReadsSwoonReads

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

Synopsis
When Jordyn Michaelson’s autistic brother joins her at her elite private school, she’s determined not to let anyone know they’re related. Even if that means closing herself off to all her closest friends, including charming football stud Alex Colby. But despite her best intentions, she just can’t shake the memory of kissing Alex last summer, and the desire to do it again.

Can Jordyn find the courage to tell Alex how she really feels—and the truth about her family—before he slips away forever?

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.

KA CozzoAbout the Author
Karole Cozzo is a school psychologist by day, a wife and mother of two by night, and a writer of YA romance in the wee hours of the morning. She loves camping out at Starbucks, breakfast cereal at all hours, and watching every movie made from her favorite YA books. How to Say I Love You Out Loud is her debut novel.

Where to find K.A. Cozzo
Goodreads | Website | Twitter