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What to Say Next    by Julie Buxbaum order for
What to Say Next
by Julie Buxbaum
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2017 (2017)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Julie Buxbaum's What to Say Next takes a look at two issues that many teenagers face in some shape or form: dealing with the death of a loved one and being on the spectrum. While the first is more prevalent in contemporary YA fiction, the second is a topic that should not be shied away from, and Buxbaum meets it head on.

A month after her dad's death in a car accident, Kit Lowell is finding it hard to continue in her old life. Desperate for a change and some quiet, she sits down one day at David Drucker's lunch table. David has been the school outcast since day one due to his social awkwardness and an unfortunate middle school incident. In order to help him survive the remaining years of high school, his now-graduated older sister helps him start a trust list which he keeps in his notebook with his observations of all of his classmates.

As she has never been mean to him, Kit is high on his trust list, so David decides to talk to her. Kit finds his bluntness refreshing, and soon the two of them are eating lunch together every day as David's crush on Kit grows. Kit, too, finds herself falling for David, but can their tenuous relationship survive David's humiliation at the hands of bullies? And Kit's deepest secret?

Buxbaum has given readers two very real characters in Kit and David, and that is what carries What to Say Next. David, though, is the standout of the two, as Buxbaum does an amazing job showcasing his thought process in a way that will resonate with anyone who would have been or knows someone who would have been diagnosed as having Asperger's under the previous Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The plot is secondary to the growth of the characters, which can slow things down in some spots.

Julie Buxbaum gives a wonderful look at how everyone can feel socially isolated at times in their life, and that friendship can come from unexpected sources. If you prefer character-driven YA, What to Say Next is one to read.

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