Book Review: Unspoken

Unspoken, Or the Unrefined Art of Communicating at the Top of Your Lungs and Through the Bottom of Your Feet
By Larry McCloskey
176 Pages • ISBN: 978-0995336008

Unspoken, Or the Unrefined Art of Communicating at the Top of Your Lungs and Through the Bottom of Your Feet is of two traditions: that of Judy Blume, lacing an engaging coming-of-age story with relatable plotting and circumstances; and that of Birdman, featuring a subtitle so long that it requires multiple breaths to get all the way through.

Pun aside, Unspoken hits the ground running. We learn quickly about all of fourteen-year-old Siobhan’s life problems. Mom is an unstable kleptomaniac and has been out of Siobhan’s life for five years. Her dad is present physically, but emotionally distant. Though they rarely talk, they share a love for running and music. Siobhan and her father’s relationship becomes even more confusing when her father becomes her teacher’s running coach, and Siobhan starts to get the funny feeling that they are dating. Her dad seems happy, and she thinks she knows why.

At its heart, Unspoken is a story of changing relationships, of growing up and seeing those around you in a new light. Siobhan perceives her father as distant and withdrawn, but as the novel unfolds, she realizes that she is just as unaware of her father’s life as he is of hers. Even in their lack of words, Siobhan finds other ways to communicate with her father, specifically through long-distance running and Leonard Cohen. Though these alternatives to talking reveal themselves to be imperfect, as the novel progresses, she develops a new understanding of him through their mutual appreciations.

Relationships that fill Unspoken are three-dimensional, featuring surprising depth for a young adult novel. The characters aren’t airbrushed, either: they are imperfect, and while the plot is sensational (it is, after all, a book for adolescents), the human aspects of the novel ring true. Siobhan’s father is an especially well-developed character, wholly believable in his sad and lonely rut.

The novel is penned by Ottawa native Larry McCloskey, and is printed by the independent publisher, Dog-Eared Books, which McCloskey cofounded. With two books currently published, Dog-Eared Books’ mission is to make high-quality books featuring “good stories with strong characters and positive themes.” Unspoken fills all of these criteria. It is a wonderful independent novel that will undoubtedly help adolescents understand the changing world surrounding them.