More Than We Can Tell reviewed by Annie

I read Brigid Kemmerer’s novel for young adults, Letters to the Lost, where Rev Fletcher was a secondary character. In More than We Can Tell he and Emma are the central characters and narrate the story in turns.

Emma, to the chagrin of her mother, a paediatric cardiologist, is into gaming like her father. She has created a game, OtherLANDS, that has a small following. But one of them is leaving vile and derogatory comments suggesting that ‘girls are ruining gaming’. Her best friend Cait ‘does makeup tutorials on YouTube’, and they are drifting apart. Through OtherLANDS she befriends Declan through their love of gaming.

Rev is a senior at Emma’s school. He is adopted, having been taken away from his abusive father when he was seven-years-old. His father hasn’t been able to contact him, but Rev has turned eighteen, his father has sent him a letter, and he begins to relive the nightmare that was his early childhood. He doesn’t tell anyone he has received the letter, not even his adoptive parents or his best friend Declan.

The parents are secondary but essential to the story and fully developed. Emma sees her mother as ‘buttoned up and critical. Compared to her, Dad looks like a stoner’. Rev’s adoptive parents foster other children, generally babies and toddlers, including those with special needs and tell Rev how lucky they are to have adopted him. Then they foster a fourteen-year-old boy, Matthew, and this changes the dynamic in the household.

Emma and Rev bump into each other outside of school and start talking and a friendship develops, and they start to break down the walls they have each built to protect themselves.

Declan’s story, which was started in Letters to the Lost, continues giving the book another layer, and Cait too is another interesting character.

The book deals with the tragedies behind children who are fostered with sensitivity through Rev and Matthew’s histories, and the dangers of online interactions are highlighted, showing it’s ‘easy to drop your guard and make friends. And it’s just as easy to tear someone down’. It addresses the expectations teenagers feel from their parents and others around them, but also shows the support that can come, even when it is not expected.

This is another powerful book by Kemmerer showing that everything is not always as it seems, that things need to be seen from different perspectives, to try and walk a mile in another person’s shoes, and that sometimes you need to ‘ask questions to hear the quiet people’. It has stayed with me since finishing it, and recalls real emotion when I think about it again.

 

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