The Words We Keep – Erin Stewart

“You know, it’s not the worst thing in the world to have someone know who you are.”

Lily hasn’t seen her sister, Alice, since the Night of the Bathroom Floor. She can’t bring herself to visit her at Fairview Treatment Centre. Straight A student Lily thinks she needs to keep her school life separate from her home life if she’s going to stay afloat. She’s desperately trying to hold her family together.

As long as I keep moving, whatever got Alice can’t get me, too.

Lily hopes to stay as far away from Micah, who met Lily at Fairview, as possible. She’s scared of what will happen if her home life intrudes on her school life. This seems all but inevitable when Lily and Micah are paired up for a class project.

“We’re combining our classes to explore what happens when words and art collide”

While this book delves into some really dark places, at its heart it’s about acceptance. I enjoyed spending time with Lily and Micah as they got to know each other. The process of Lily learning to stop hiding was painful at times but ultimately rewarding. I adored the guerilla poetry.

Books that include characters struggling with their mental health can sometimes feel like a balancing act. They need to be real enough to be relatable but there needs to be some hope too. The author definitely doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff here but there are some rays of sunshine as well. The characters’ thoughts and emotions have an authenticity that are clearly drawn from the author’s lived experience, discussed in the Author’s Note at the end of the book.

“You are enough. Right now. Just the way you are.”

Content warnings include attempted suicide, mental health and self harm. Readers with emetophobia may have trouble with some scenes.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

It’s been two months since the Night on the Bathroom Floor – when Lily found her sister, Alice, hurting herself. Ever since then, Lily has been desperately trying to keep things together, for herself and for her family. But now Alice is coming home from her treatment program and it is becoming harder for Lily to ignore all of the feelings she’s been trying to outrun.

Enter Micah, a new student at school with a past of his own. He was in treatment with Alice and seems determined to get Lily to process not only Alice’s experience, but her own. Because Lily has secrets, too. Compulsions she can’t seem to let go of and thoughts she can’t drown out.

When Lily and Micah embark on an art project for school involving finding poetry in unexpected places, she realises that it’s the words she’s been swallowing that desperately want to break through.

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