Summary: Say It Out Loud
Say It Out Loud was my first Allison Varnes book. I was absolutely drawn in by that cover and the book lived up to my expectations.
Charlotte Andrews stutters and prefers to lay low to avoid being picked on. Thankfully, she has a best friend, Maggie who sticks with her. But middle school is a whole other ball game and soon after she and Maggie start attending, Maggie defends a boy who is being bullied on the school bus, effectively putting a bully target on her own back. When the bullying starts, Charlotte ditches Maggie and suddenly she can’t figure out how to fix the friendship.
As Charlotte finds a family among the theater kids, the guilt about abandoning her childhood friend begins to eat at her. She begins to write encouraging notes to other kids, slipping them into lockers. But can she fix her friendship with Maggie?
This story has such a moving premise. In the Author’s Note, author Allison Varnes mentions that this story is based on some of her life experiences as someone who stutters, just like the main character. The story really highlights the tough emotions Charlotte faces after she betrays her best friend. But what I loved most was the surprising turns the story takes both with Charlotte and Maggie. I loved that there was no overly punitive plot for Charlotte, but instead a rather realistic turn of events.
A major part of this story is Charlotte’s experience in musical theater, learning to face her fears by singing even though she didn’t want to at first. Charlotte also has very supportive parents who are also far from permissive and help her take responsibility for her actions while not condemning her as a person. Middle grade books about music and musical theater have really grown on me over time and I liked this one a lot.
Books about kids who stutter aren’t as many as they should be. This was a good representation by an author who’s faced the same challenge. We see Charlotte work with a speech therapist and learn to manage her stutter while learning that it’s OK to stutter sometimes. Finally, Charlotte’s desire and execution of the note-writing project was heartwarming to read. The kids also write to newspapers to try to prevent the school from cutting theater, which can be a fun activist theme for readers who enjoy it.
Overall: Say It Out Loud
Say It Out Loud is a heartwarming middle grade book about making mistakes and working to take responsibility for them. It centers a young girl who stutters, a friendship fracture, as well as a middle school musical. This story scores points for positive relationships between parents and their kids and helping readers recognize that people are rarely ever just good or bad. I would definitely recommend this one.