The Word for Yes – Claire Needell


After their parents’ divorce, Jan, Erika, and Melanie have to get used to the new world order: a father who’s moved to another continent and a mother who throws herself into moving on. Jan, off at her first semester of college, has plenty to worry about, including an outspoken roommate who’s kind of “out there” and an increasingly depressed and troubled long-distance boyfriend. Her younger sisters, left at home in New York City, and dealing with all the pressures of life in high school, aren’t exactly close. Erika is serious and feels awkward and uncomfortable in crowds, though her beauty tends to attract attention. Melanie is socially savvy and just wants to go out—to concerts, to parties, wherever—with her friends. The gap between all three girls widens as each day passes.

Then, at a party full of blurred lines and blurred memories, everything changes. Starting that night, where there should be words, there is only angry, scared silence.

And in the aftermath, Jan, Erika, and Melanie will have to work hard to reconnect and help one another heal.

At once touching and raw, Claire Needell’s first novel is an honest look at the love and conflicts among sisters and friends, and how these relationships can hold us together—and tear us apart.


So, my main gripe with this book was that everything was mounting up, all these stories were building, and then… it just ended. Poof. I felt like this book was missing another 75 pages or so to tie all the ends together. We leave this book with all the characters still left hanging. Jan and Erika’s stories were totally abandoned. Why introduce these feelings and situations if they don’t matter at all?Trying to cover a breadth of “TOPICS” (depression, sexual curiosity, divorce, etc.) without doing them justice (in terms of depth) is a shame.

I’m glad we got to see Gerald’s point of view, but I don’t know how realistic it was. Can you really say that people get carried away? Is it a primal thing? If so, why are rape victims so often female, and rape perpetrators so often male? Can’t women be capable of the same atrocity (of course they can, but much less prevalent)?

I also felt like the afterword was a bit presumptuous. Yes, it was thoughtful. And it covered things that needed to be said for the people who need it most. But not all who read this kind of book is a victim or deeply affected by this topic in some way or another. I like to read these books to understand how these situations happen and how people can cope differently. I read these books to understand others’ feelings. I read them to be informed; to be able to participate in such an important discourse. I’m not brushing aside the fact that I know people who have had similar experiences of their own (although each one is different). I’m just saying that the tone of this book kind of expects you to be a certain type of person, and assumes that any average empathetic bookworm would have no interest in reading or discussing rape… And that’s the wrong frame of mind to have!

Related Reading

  • Asking For It – Louise O’Neill
  • Making Pretty – Corey Ann Haydu
  • Just Listen – Sarah Dessen
  • All the Bright Places – Jennifer Niven
  • Falling Into Place – Amy Zhang

Rating: 3/5


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