For as long as she can remember, Sarah’s family life has revolved around her twin sister, Annie—the pretty one, the social one, the girl who can do anything. The person everyone seems to wish Sarah—with her crippling shyness—could simply become.
When Annie suddenly chops off her hair, quits beauty pageants, and gains weight, the focus changes—Annie is still the star of the family, but for all the wrong reasons. Sarah knows something has happened, but she too is caught in her own spiral after her boyfriend breaks up with her and starts hanging out with one of Annie’s old friends.
Annie is intent on keeping her painful secret safe. But when she and Sarah start spending time together again for the first time in years, walls start to break on both sides … and words that had been left unsaid could change everything.
|Sold by:||HarperCollins Publishing|
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|Age Range:||15 - 18 Years|
About the Author
Award-winning author of more than twenty-five books and a graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts with an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults, Carol Lynch Williams facilitates a week-long workshop to help writers get published (www.wifyr.com). She lives in Utah with her family. Visit her at her blog, Throwing Up Words.
Read an Excerpt
By Carol Lynch Williams
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2015 Carol Lynch Williams
All rights reserved.
At the foot of my bed
is the nightmare.
Here's how it ended.
"Sarah, we're too serious."
It was late. After dusk. This past October, when the skies teemed with snow clouds and we wondered if this would be a bad winter.
I couldn't see the stars. Words caught in my throat. Stuck there. Garret's words had pinned them.
"What do you mean?"
He stood next to me but I almost couldn't see him. Just his outline. A silhouette.
He held my hand, his fingers loose. "We have to make room for other people," he said, and for a moment I wondered if I was dreaming. The wind blew, and I felt chilled through, like the air touched my bones. The parts of me that had slipped away when I became comfortable with Garret dropped onto my shoulders one by one. I wanted to run, get away. Not listen.
"What are you saying?" I asked. "I don't understand."
Garret straightened. I looked up at him. His features weren't clear in the darkness, but I'd memorized the green eyes, the blond color of his hair, that smile.
He didn't smile now, though. "We need a break. We need to see if we're right for each other." The words flowed from him like they were someone else's.
It was too much pressure, he said.
(Did he mean I was too much pressure? That we together were? That we didn't work, though I was sure, was positive, we did? How could his words shake me up so?)
His mother was always on his back, he said.
He had to date other people, he said.
And that was that.
After more than eighteen months of being together, of being a couple. After I gave my heart to him. Nearly everything I had. After all that, he decided to look elsewhere.
I saw it, Annie." Mom's talking. Intent.
They've waited on dinner for me, and I slip into my chair, late.
Annie doesn't answer our mother. She fills her plate. Careful. Making sure nothing touches on the china. Neat compartments.
Dad looks at them from the end of the table. Every night, Mom sets out a meal like this. She used to run her own catering business and, as she says, "A pretty table is in my blood."
I dish the roast beef and onions and potatoes out. The aroma of the food swirls around in the air. "What's going on?" I ask.
Dad shrugs. "Girl things, Sarah," he says.
I raise my eyebrows at him. "Uh, Dad?"
Then he winks. Oh. Those girl things. I go silent.
Mom folds her napkin. "Annie was invited to sit as a judge on a Junior League beauty contest."
Annie and Mom. For two people so similar, their expressions are opposite. One face blank. The other animated.
"She opened my mail," Annie says to me.
"I suggested," Mom says, "she drop a few pounds in preparation." Mom stirs butter into the potatoes. "I think she should do it. Be an example to these young girls."
I glance at Annie, who stares toward the fireplace. There's a snap of burning logs, and sparks slip up the chimney.
Dad says, "Are you kidding? What an honor. You were the best, now weren't you, Annie?"
The talented one. With all the promise in the world. Now she's the silent one.
My sister is heavy. She looks different than Before. That's what fat does to you. Her hair isn't blonde like it was. She's traded pageant dresses for sweats, but she's still beautiful. She has the same perfect, creamy skin. Her eyes sparkle. Her teeth are perfect. When she smiles, you know she means it.
But Annie's not smiling now.
"Did you hear me?" Mom says. "It's not for two more months, not till April fifteenth."
"Tax day," Dad says, and his phone, sitting on the table next to his wine glass, buzzes.
"You could drop a few pounds by then." Mom takes a breath. "Maybe participate again."
Annie doesn't seem to notice our mother. But I see her flinch and it's like I flinch too.
Twins. Twins are supposed to feel the same. Look the same. Are supposed to be the same. Right?
If she won't speak, I can. I get not wanting to do something even if you're the best. Mom has to know things have changed. For Annie. For all of us.
I draw in a breath. "Mom?" I say when Annie stays quiet. I jab at a raw spinach leaf. I'm annoyed. At Annie for staying quiet. At Mom for saying these stupid things. At Dad for getting on his phone. He's talking to someone. There's an almost-smile on his lips. "Mom, Annie gave that up. Remember?"
Mom's surprised. Like Annie hasn't said she's not interested in the pageant world a hundred times over the last few months. "What do you mean, Sarah? That Annie won't judge? That she'll never be a part of that again?"
Dad excuses himself and strides over to the fire. "Jim, good to hear from you!"
I can do this. "Well," I say, but Mom stares away from me, that napkin of hers clenched in her fist. I can't drag in enough air to satisfy this fight. So I think the words.
You are so impossible lately, Mom. And Dad is too absent. And Annie, you ... you're doing nothing but eating.
It's true. Right now she's eating in slow, perfect, exact movements.
The whole family is strained. Stretched at the edges. The stitching hanging loose. It's been this way for ages now. Since the Weight.
Dad doesn't finish his plate. Doesn't look over at us, he's that engaged with Jim.
When I say, "Come on, Mom," my voice comes out whispery. Taut. "You don't need to suggest diets. Annie's a big girl."
Wait. I didn't mean that. Big is the wrong thing to say. I feel my face color.
Dad gives everyone a thumbs-up. He comes back to the table. "Gotta work," he says. As he turns toward the other end of the house, where his home office is, I hear, "Don't forget we're having that party here Saturday night."
A tradition we
my whole life
whether all of us have
wanted to or
not — is
these (now) insane mealtimes
Soldiers our family. Makes
Us do what we should
What we're told
Meals are a joke.
No one listens to anyone.
We all talk — except Sarah — and not one of us
when I look around at us
see who we've become,
I'm surprised that
were related: a family. Happy.
More family moments
my father insists on,
are the parties.
I used to love them.
Mom developed the menu,
Sarah practiced violin all over the house (when there was
no one near)
I went with Dad to order flowers
and send out invitations
(nothing Internet —
just old-fashioned mail).
Yes, I used to love them.
has hated it all
since the beginning.
Hates the show we put on
speaking to strangers
(she has a hard enough time
I agree with my sister.
Fat and thin.
Night and day.
Angry and silent.
Let's drop the show we put on for everyone.
None of us are who we say we are.
At the table, I wonder: Would I be different if I could talk to strangers without wanting to throw up, could stand at a microphone and not feel like I was having a heart attack, could remember public events (like school and office parties and church) without an anxiety attack?
Would I be different if I hadn't broken up with Garret King?
Yes, it was two months ago. Yes, young love doesn't matter, isn't real. But I still feel raw, still feel pain, still feel awful.
Would I be different if my parents thought more of me (the ugly duckling) and less of Annie (who was so lovely that adult men gasped)?
"I think ..." I have to clear my throat.
Would this be different?
What if they looked at us like equals?
"I think ..." I say. But there are no more words. I glance up from my plate in time to see Dad sort of smile at my sister as he leaves. It's fake, that smile. One I have seen aimed at me, at Mom, at people he tolerates. I swallow, but nothing wants to go down.
Annie stares at me. She raises an eyebrow, and I'm not sure of the code. What's she saying? Before I can figure it out, Mom says, "I told them yes, Annie. That you'd do it."
My sister? No response. She just eats.
Dad's left his plate and coffee cup on the table. Mom seems so ... alone.
I'm startled by her expression.
"Remember," she says, like she doesn't notice her husband leaving when I can see she does, "when you would pageant? Do you remember that, Annie? You would be such an inspiration for the youngsters."
Annie nods. "That was only last year, Mom," she says. "Of course I remember." The heat kicks on. I breathe in deep and smell the homemade rolls. "No one forgets the pageants. Do we, Sarah?"
I shake my head, hiding behind hair that corkscrews over my shoulder. Does my sister know how I felt about all that Annie Time? All the Winning Time? The Stand-on-the-Stage-and-Accept-the-Trophy time? I had hoped I'd hidden that. "I remember," I say. "You never lost."
My sister looks surprised. Why? Because I know her history? Or because I speak of it?
"She's right," Mom says. "You never lost, Annie." Mom leans forward, hands clasped. "Think of those little girls, all dressed up."
"Mom," Annie says.
The chandelier is too bright.
"Glad I don't have to do that," I say.
"Speak up, please, Sarah," Mom says. "Not to yourself. To everyone."
I don't have the energy to get into it now. There's too much tension. I tighten my lips like they're sewn together.
Annie won't participate in the judging. I know it. Mom should too.
"No, thanks," I say, answering Mom, but she's focused on Annie.
Maybe Mom does know the answer.
Here's a truth: Before.
Before, I was terrified our Mom might force me to pageant. Believe me, there are lots of good things about being a normal-looking girl. Nothing on me is exquisite. No almond-shaped eyes. No heart-shaped face. No natural highlights.
Green eyes. Flat chest. Short.
My looks kept me in the audience. Away from the stage.
Thank goodness. Oh, thank goodness.
Still, I close my eyes, remembering. Sorry. I was jealous of all the attention my sister got. It takes effort to admit this to myself. It's embarrassing. But I was jealous of being so lost. So left behind.
Now I glance up at Mom and Annie.
"I don't understand," Mom's saying.
Annie's done with her first helping, her plate almost spotless. That nursery rhyme pops in my head, the one about Jack Spratt. "... and so betwixt the two of them, they licked the platter clean." She reaches for more Jell-O with carrots. Stares at Mom as she spoons some onto her plate.
How can she stand it? This weight talk? I would leave, eat alone, never sit with anyone. Not even my family.
"Have you ever thought your constant jabber may be why I keep eating?" Annie says.
Everything in the room slows. The clock, our breathing, the beating of our hearts. It all seems to stop and wait for Mom to answer. These rhythms beat out of time.
I can see Annie and me in the French doors, broken into pieces by the panes of glass.
"How dare you? I am not the reason for your bad decision making." Mom huffs then glares at me, me, like I'm the problem. "I don't know when you became so unkind." Like I just hurt her feelings. Or gained the weight.
If you eat
more than enough
you can do what needs to be done.
At first I didn't
because creamy chocolate
salted, buttery popcorn
made me feel
A few pounds a few pounds more
I am in control.
That's when it started. The changing. All of us. Changing. With Annie's weight gain came Dad staying away and Mom talking too much.
Before was different.
Before, we always did Annie Family Stuff.
Before, there was me, keeping where I'm most comfortable ... in the background. With a book. At home. Quiet. Observing.
However, home is no longer comfortable.
That's the connection, I realize, sitting here. Watching our mother stand, leave her dishes behind, follow Dad to wherever. Her face red, her eyes tearing up.
We've been stuck in Annie's fat since the first pound.
This must be hard, I think, having two broken daughters.
I climb the stairs to my room.
Outside, the storm rages and an unknown fear shuttles across my chest.
I squeeze my eyes shut. Open them.
The carpet catches any sounds my shoes might have made.
I speak to myself. There's no one to hear. I can say what I want. Whisper if I want, raise my voice if I want. "I'm not the same as my sister."
Annie loved winning. Loved the crowds. Playing the piano in front of the world. She got what she wanted then.
Even in this crazy world she's created, Annie gets what she wants. She sneaks downstairs at night to eat. Gets up before everyone to make breakfast. Packs a lunch big enough for two or three. We were the same size. Same weight. That was Before. Now we're twins who are different.
"It's not fair." As the words come out I know I sound like a baby. But ...
She wanted pageants. She got that.
Now she wants to eat, so she does.
And me? I wanted Garret. And he's gone. Tears burn my eyes. My head hurts.
How is that right?
The snowstorm batters the house and trees bow in the wind. As I get ready for bed, I hear Mom. She's after Annie. Again. Or still. I'm not sure which.
I peek out my bedroom and see Mom down the hall, in Annie's doorway. The walls are lined with photos. Pageant pictures, most of them. Some of us as a family. A few of me and Annie when we were little. On the beach. At the park. Black and white. Color. It's a tunnel of photographs.
"Do you know," Mom says, "what your father and I have done for you? How we've sacrificed?"
A part of me wants to shout, to holler, "Let it go. Leave her alone already." But I'll never yell. The thought of confrontation makes my skin cool. My lips tingle.
Mom glances at me, like she's heard my thoughts. "And Sarah too." She waves her hand in my direction.
I duck into my room but stand where I can hear everything. Why does Mom keep going on? She hasn't pestered Annie this way in a while. Is it the chance to get back into the business of pageants? Even if only as a judge? Has Annie gained a pound or two more and can Mom see that?
"We've all given up our lives for you. Helped you win scholarships and trophies and ..." Mom's frustration bleeds down the hall. I peer out at her. See the annoyance in her face. Hear it in her voice. It's dripping off her. Puddling on the floor.
Why hasn't Annie run off like Dad always manages to do? She's resilient, my sister. She has endurance.
"The doctors keep saying there's no reason you should be gaining all this weight."
I can't see my sister, but I hear her when she finally answers. Her voice is full of sarcasm. "As if everything can be found by a doctor looking into your ears."
The wind picks up, whistling like it agrees with Annie.
I'm punctured by the sound of Annie's words. They're naked.
"Guess what, Mom?" Annie says. "I'm fat. What's a forty-five pound weight gain in a year or so?"
That much? She's gained that much?
"You were so pretty," Mom says. The words echo against the walls. Hit our home stronger than the storm. Colder. The comment isn't directed at me, but it stings. I gasp for my sister. Feel the cut in my own heart. I peek back down the hall, wanting to walk to Annie. Stand beside. Hold her hand, if she'll let me.
There's a long pause. The whole house tries to catch its breath.
"Are you saying," Annie says, "because I'm fat, I'm not pretty anymore?"
Miles separate us, but I can see her hurt.
There's a fist in my throat.
Mom says nothing. Instead she twists her wedding ring around her slim finger then walks away. As she passes she says, "You helped start this."
But Mom holds her hand up in my face and disappears into her room.
Annie's voice is blizzard loud. "Are you saying that fat makes a person ugly?"
No answer from Mom, except the shutting of her door.
The lock clicks.
I stand quiet. Still. The carpet is so soft. Annie looks at me. For a second I remember sharing a bed when we were young — laughing, telling secrets, sleeping snuggled together, maybe like in the womb.
She says, "This is the way I want to be." Proud.
Then she closes the door and I hear that lock click too.
What makes a girl
We are torn up. Torn apart. No longer who we were. We are stuck in Annie's fat. Stuck in Mom's anger. Stuck in Dad's job.
Me. Alone. Again.
There's not a sound anywhere until, from downstairs, I hear the grandfather clock calling out the time. Like I'm released from a spell, I retreat into my room and flick the light out, lie down on my bed, and just wait.
Excerpted from Never Said by Carol Lynch Williams. Copyright © 2015 Carol Lynch Williams. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Told through both sets of eyes of a set of twins. Annie's chapters are told through poetry while Sarah's chapters are told in usual novel form. Something has changed in Annie's life but the family has no clue; the only thing they know is she has changed and she is gaining weight and has cut her hair. Sarah usually the quiet, more reserved twin is being pushed into the spotlight and doesn't like it at all. I have to be honest I didn't love this one. It took way too long to find out what happened to Annie and I would have loved more book to happen after the reader finds out what made Annie's life change. I wanted more about how her and her family really came to terms and helped her overcome this life changing event.
This novel was very different from anything I have read before. The writing almost poetic in nature. This book won’t be for everyone, but I do think the intended audience (Teens) will like it a lot. Due to the subject matter I would recommend this for older teens, maybe fifteen to eighteen. This book was a super quick read and the mystery surrounding Annie’s weight gain and change in personality kept driving me to read until the end so I could see what happened to her to make the change. There is a sad tone throughout the whole book, but I think that goes with the thoughts in these young girls minds. Their thoughts aren’t happy. They are both dealing with struggles. I loved seeing the two sisters find their way back to each other. There is definitely something about a sister and the relationship you can have with her. I do wish there was more Jesus in the book. If I didn’t know this was a Christian book I don’t think reading it would give it away. Christ is mentioned once. I would love to have seen Jesus come in a redeem the hurt in this family. I think an opportunity to speak into young girls lives might have been missed because honestly, the only way to recover from our wounds completely is through Jesus Christ. But, with that being said, I did enjoy the overall story and think teens will enjoy the book as well. A copy of this book was given to by Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review.
This book is one I'm having a hard time writing the review, I liked it OK but I just didn't really get invested into the characters so I think that is what is making it so hard. The story line follows twin sisters and the writing is different for each. Sarah is told through regular story format and Annie through poetry. I liked that they each had their style as twins are often lumped together and not given their own voice. I haven't been a big fan of books told through poetry so maybe that was a bit of it I'm not sure. The subject is a touchy one and one that some middle school and high school readers might find uncomfortable to read about. So use your judgement if you are picking this up for those readers. This is one of those YA books that I think should stay in the YA reading audience. Many times middle grade readers can read YA books however this one seems more YA due to the subject matter. It is a clean christian YA book but does deal with abuse of a child by an adult in an adult situation. I guess all and all I just never felt connected and wish the story line had dived deeper into the characters, their back story and more. I would give it 3 stars it is a subject that many won't touch and I think it is good that she wrote a book about it. Never Said is also one that others might enjoy. While it wasn't a favorite of mine I also didn't not like it. It just didn't click with me. thank you zondervan for sending me a copy of the book all thoughts and opinions are my own and were not influenced by the free book.