Published by Bloomsbury Children's on March 6th 2018
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
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FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Although set in the same universe as her popular book Letters to the Lost, Brigid Kemmerer’s latest novel More Than We Can Tell is a standalone story that follows two teens who are each carrying around a heavy burden of secrets. Eighteen-year-old Rev Fletcher was raised by an abusive father until he was removed from his home at age 7 and placed with foster parents who eventually adopted him as their own. Even though he now lives in a loving and supportive environment, Rev is still occasionally haunted by the horrors of his past and by the fear that he will somehow grow up to be like his father. Rev lives a normal life and gets by most days without dwelling on his fears too much, but when an unexpected letter arrives from his father, all of those fears rise to the surface and threaten to pull Rev under. He doesn’t know what to do and doesn’t want to upset his adoptive parents, so he keeps the letter a secret even though it is eating him up inside that his father has somehow managed to find him after all these years.
Rev is not the only one in More Than We Can Tell living under the burden of secrets and fears. High school junior Emma Blue is also battling some demons of her own. Emma is a gamer and a gifted coder, so gifted in fact, that she has designed an entire video game from scratch. Coding and designing video games are what Emma wants to pursue as a career, but her father, who actually designs video games for a living, is never around to support her, while her mother, who is a doctor, thinks all of this gaming is just a waste of time. Because she feels they don’t really support her, Emma works on her video game in secret and doesn’t even try to show her parents what she is doing or how good at it she really is. Things get messy, however, when an online troll starts sending her threatening messages through her game. The comments escalate to the point where Emma is basically being sexually harassed through the internet, but because Emma fears her parents will just tell her to delete the game she has worked so hard on, Emma decides to shoulder the burden of this harassment herself and doesn’t tell anyone what is going on even though she is actually afraid of the troll by this point.
Rev and Emma meet by chance one night while Emma is out walking her dog, and the two of them hit it off immediately and are able to open up to one another in ways that they don’t feel like they can with anyone else. Will their new found friendship turn into something more? Can they help each other deal with the secrets that are wearing them down?
Wow, where to even start with this book? Honestly, I loved pretty much everything about it. It’s filled with wonderfully complex characters, relevant themes, beautiful relationships, and so much more. It made me laugh at times, and it also made me tear up a few times, and I’m a sucker for a book that grabs all of my emotions like that.
I fell in love with both Rev and Emma right away, for very different reasons. Rev was just such a beautiful soul and it hurt my heart to watch him struggle with the memories of what his awful father did to him. It especially got to me that he was so worried that he would turn out just like him, when everything about his personality screamed that he would be the exact opposite. I hated the way his father kept getting into his head and dragging him down, but at the same time, I could easily understand how it kept happening.
I loved Emma because of her independence. I didn’t necessarily agree with her keeping things from her parents, but at the same time, I admired her strength and her determination not to give up on her dream of designing games for a living. My inner geek also loved that she was so passionate about STEM and that she was a pretty badass gamer as well.
The relationships in More Than We Can Tell were beautifully written as well. Rev’s loving relationship with his adoptive parents, Geoff and Kristin, was especially moving to read about, knowing how awful his life had been prior to coming into their home. I teared up several times just watching them love and support him even when he, at times, tried to push them away. My love for this relationship also extended out to them all for inviting another troubled teen into their home. Even though he wasn’t exactly central to the overall storyline, I loved the character of Matthew for many of the same reasons I loved Rev and so it was lovely to see him find a home, even if it’s only temporary, with a family as great as Rev’s (On a side note: I would love to see another book set in this universe that follows Matthew.)
The friendship between Declan and Rev was probably my favorite part of the entire book. I’ve actually not read Letters to the Lost yet, but I’ve heard this friendship plays a role in that book as well, so I fully intend to go back and read that. These young men are about as close to brothers as they could possibly be. I enjoyed the ease of their banter, which is just so funny at times, but most importantly, I loved that Declan always seems to just “get” Rev. He’s tuned in to what Rev needs, even if Rev doesn’t know it himself. There’s one scene where Rev loses it at school and throws a punch at Declan. Instead of getting mad about it, Declan shows up at Rev’s house right after school and, to paraphrase, says “Come on. If you need to punch it out, let’s go find you a better target than my face” and takes him to work through his frustrations on an actual punching bag. That’s friendship right there.
The growing relationship between Emma and Rev is lovely too. I loved their little meetups on the lawn outside the church and how easily their conversations flowed from the silly and casual to the more serious things that were on their minds. Kemmerer does a beautiful job here of advancing their relationship from strangers to acquaintances to friends to maybe a little something more without it feeling like insta-love.
I could go on and on about all the things I adored about More Than We Can Tell but I’m going to close by saying that in addition to the beautifully drawn characters and relationships, what really pulled me into this story were all of its themes. This is a story about love, family, friendship, forgiveness, and trust. It also serves as an important reminder to give your family a chance to have your back and that you don’t always have to shoulder your own burdens.
I can’t think of a single issue I had with More Than We Can Tell. It’s just a wonderfully crafted story on every level.
Brigid Kemmer’s More Than We Can Tell is a beautifully written and moving story that will grab you by the emotions and won’t let go. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll fall in love with Rev and his family and friends. I look forward to reading Letters to the Lost soon because I’m ready for more from the universe.
Rev Fletcher is battling the demons of his past. But with loving adoptive parents by his side, he’s managed to keep them at bay…until he gets a letter from his abusive father and the trauma of his childhood comes hurtling back.
Emma Blue spends her time perfecting the computer game she built from scratch, rather than facing her parents’ crumbling marriage. She can solve any problem with the right code, but when an online troll’s harassment escalates, she’s truly afraid.
When Rev and Emma meet, they both long to lift the burden of their secrets and bond instantly over their shared turmoil. But when their situations turn dangerous, their trust in each other will be tested in ways they never expected. This must-read story will once again have readers falling for Brigid Kemmerer’s emotional storytelling.