‘What to Say Next’: YA Contemporary about Friendship and How NOT to Be Awkward

July 20, 2017 6 Comments

STORY: Dreams haunt Kit Lowell. Dreams triggered by the unexpected death of her father. Despite this, every day, she pretends nothing is wrong. She listens to her friend’s petty complaints, goes to school and follows the same routine. Until today. Today she fits at David Drucker’s table. David is weird (or so he tells us), but as Kit sits at his otherwise empty lunch spot, she discovers he’s a “good” weird.

‘What to Say Next’: YA Contemporary about Friendship and How NOT to Be Awkward. A review of the 2017 novel by Julie Buxbaum. Text © Rissi JC

David is different. And he knows it. Boasting an unusual personality, David doesn’t trust anyone. He’s been on the bad end of school pranks one too many times which is why he relies on his elder sister’s “guide book” on who not to trust. Kit Lowell is on the good list. Kit is the girl David has had a crush on for years, and when she asks him to help to make sense of her father’s accident, David readily agrees.

But the answers their project gives may not be what Kit wanted to hear – nor will it cement the friendship that ties them together.


Though contemporary books don’t seem to get the attention that other genres receive, one can argue the genre has been stretching its imagination. A trend I say should be – and I hope is, commended. Most of the results have been beautifully imagined and concluded. The same can be said for What To Say Next. Unique is in its DNA and (for the most part) it all pays off.

In her YA debut (Tell Me Three Things), Julie had success, and yet I hadn’t read her novels until the opportunity for her sophomore release cropped up. Though I cannot speak to her debut, I will say, I was impressed with what I found inside these pages. The book isn’t a fast mover (plot wise), which is, sadly, a disadvantage. I felt “stuck” in the first fourth or even half of the story. Nothing moved towards the elements mentioned in the synopsis (or the element suggested to be the “big” conclusion), which left this reader confused.

BOOK REVIEW | ‘Listen to your Heart’: Enjoy the Perfect Any Day Read!
‘What to Say Next’: YA Contemporary about Friendship and How NOT to Be Awkward. A review of the 2017 novel by Julie Buxbaum. Text © Rissi JC

That said, once I fell into the rhythm of the first-person switch off, I really did become invested. David’s brutal honesty won’t appeal to everyone, but he is actually a wonderful character. I found him refreshing and best of all, I love that Kit responds to this honesty. David comes into her life precisely when she most needs him, and it’s that which makes the story work so neatly. Everything falls apart for Kit, and even though her friends remain, none of them quite know how to handle “Kit 2.0.” How David jumps into their friendship and challenges her makes them all the more perfect and good for each other.

Because of the rocky start, I do feel a slight disconnect in places of the story. Nonetheless, I do want to clearly say, I really (really) like this book. It’s smart, witty and a little bit sassy. The ending is ambiguous depending on how you choose to read it. Some will love this because it allows them to write a kind of ending for these characters. Others will find disappointment at conclusion’s end. I’m in the former camp. Though I’ll confess, I was leaning towards the latter, but then a final chapter came up, and a smile again found its way to my face.

Short in its page count, the chapters fly by, but the characters work their way into a reader’s heart. Kit and David are darling, fun and definitely more multifaceted (as individuals and as a twosome) than many of their fictional peers. ♥


(Disclosure: this post does contain affiliate links; if you buy anything through these links, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. Thank you to anyone who makes a purchase through these links. Read the disclosure page for details.)

Author: Julie Buxbaum
Publisher: Random House
Source: Publisher Provided – thank you!
Publication Date: 2017
Find the Review elsewhere: Amazon | Goodreads | WordPress
Shop the Book: Amazon | Bookshop.org | Goodreads
Genre: Fiction; Contemporary, Young Adult/Teen
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Sincere thanks to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of this book. Review text is © Rissi JC and first appeared on Finding Wonderland (Dreaming Under the Same Moon), RissiWrites.com 

About Rissi JC

amateur graphic designer. confirmed bookaholic. bubbl’r enthusiast. critical thinker. miswesterner. social media coordinator. writer.

Rissi JC

amateur graphic designer. confirmed bookaholic. bubbl’r enthusiast. critical thinker. miswesterner. social media coordinator. writer.

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  • Rosie @ Rosie Writes Things July 23, 2017 at 2:17 PM

    Sometimes it does feel like contemporary books fall under the radar of all the awesome fantasy and sci-fi books out there. It can be hard to create something NEW, and FRESH in the contemporary world — but I've had this one added since I came across it on Goodreads! I haven't read her debut either, although it is on my TBR, I think, but it sounds like this is a book I shall like!

    • Rissi July 25, 2017 at 2:45 AM

      Ditto, Rosie. I so agree. I do hope if you have the chance to read this one, that you enjoy! And if you do, let me know what you think. Her YA debut (Tell Me Three Things) is something I added to my shelf after reading this one because, aww, it's so cute! :)

      Happy reading – and thanks so much for visiting.

  • Erica Robyn Reads July 31, 2017 at 7:18 PM

    Oh this sounds so refreshing! I'll have to check it out! Wonderful review.

    • Rissi August 1, 2017 at 7:56 PM

      It sure is, Erica. Such a unique read, and one that I really enjoyed. :)

  • Bekah M. August 7, 2017 at 9:01 PM

    Love your review! I definitely want to read this now. I just bought Tell Me Three Things because of the unbelievable price on Amazon, maybe I'll snag a copy of this next. :)

    • Rissi August 11, 2017 at 10:25 PM

      I saw that price too, Bekah – one of those things you tease about and say, "Well, that's so low I can't afford not to snag a copy." ;) My copy was higher than that (DARN!), but still a really good deal, so I'm happy. :)

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