When Dana from Wednesday Books reached out to me about Six Goodbyes We Never Said by Candace Ganger (which is going to be released in September 2019), I was honestly thrilled! Before I go on further, I want to share with you all the trigger warnings that were showcased at the start of the arc in an author’s note: mental illness is the main aspect of this story the author highlights in wanting her readers to take caution in before diving in to the book. Some of these mental illnesses include social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Like with picking up a copy of Six Goodbyes We Never Said when the novel is released, please put your well-being first before reading this review.
Two teens meet after tragedy and learn about love, loss, and letting go
Naima Rodriguez doesn’t want your patronizing sympathy as she grieves her father, her hero—a fallen Marine. She’ll hate you forever if you ask her to open up and remember him “as he was,” though that’s all her loving family wants her to do in order to manage her complex OCD and GAD. She’d rather everyone back the-eff off while she separates her Lucky Charms marshmallows into six, always six, Ziploc bags, while she avoids friends and people and living the life her father so desperately wanted for her.
Dew respectfully requests a little more time to process the sudden loss of his parents. It’s causing an avalanche of secret anxieties, so he counts on his trusty voice recorder to convey the things he can’t otherwise say aloud. He could really use a friend to navigate a life swimming with pain and loss and all the lovely moments in between. And then he meets Naima and everything’s changed—just not in the way he, or she, expects.
Candace Ganger’s Six Goodbyes We Never Said is no love story. If you ask Naima, it’s not even a like story. But it is a story about love and fear and how sometimes you need a little help to be brave enough to say goodbye.
I truly appreciated the message this novel gave. Naima and Dew as characters reminded me of myself in different ways and I found them (and really all the characters throughout the book!) to be dynamic and interesting to learn more about as the story unfolded. What ultimately drew me to wanting to give Six Goodbyes We Never Said a read was to see how the mental illness representation was done; as someone who has experienced anxiety and panic attacks, this is a subject matter I hold close to my heart and really enjoy seeing how it’s something being showcased in YA for readers to hopefully find comfort in if they’re having similar experiences. Though I personally can’t speak for how the other mental illnesses were written (which from my understanding, this novel is own voices for all the mental illnesses written in the trigger warning!), I related to the author’s depiction and appreciated how it was okay to be discussing therapy (which both main characters have taken part in for their mental health issues!) and medication to help (Naima in particular) with her mental well-being. I’m sure if this book had been around when I was in high school, I would’ve been over the moon to see that I wasn’t alone in what I was feeling (for at that time in my life, I had little to no understanding of what anxiety or panic attacks were and how they could come about).
I also value the discussion of grief throughout this book. This is something everyone can relate to in some form (myself definitely included!) and I personally found how Naima and Dew both react to it to be well done. As I was reading Six Goodbyes We Never Said, I was reminded of a time where I had a tough time with my mental health due to a death in my family and reading this gave me a much needed reminder that I’m not alone in how I reacted (my anxiety had gotten bad at this point) and it was absolutely okay.
In terms of issues I had with this novel, I had three things come to mind:
- I realize this could be changed come the time final copies of the novel are released, but I really didn’t like how repetitive Naima uses god damn in her dialogue (which is abbreviated by simply having GD any time the word is used). I found the abbreviation to be a bit off putting for me personally and I don’t know how well it would come across to readers in the future.
- The format in which Naima and Dew’s perspectives are split up confused me when I first starting reading the book. However, this was completely a me thing. Naima’s name is simply put above where her chapters begin, while Dew’s chapters are showcased in a format you’d see from a voice recording (showing a play button, fast forward, the time in which Dew would record himself speaking, etc.) and my eyes had completely skipped over where Dew’s perspective was introduced after I read the first chapter and I ended up reading two pages from his perspective (without realizing the point of view had changed!) and had to go back and see why things weren’t adding up all of a sudden! (When I finally figured out why things weren’t making sense, I definitely had laughed at myself!) I actually found this method of dividing the characters’ perspective to be quite creative and I enjoyed it a lot!
- This could completely be something that’s just my personal opinion, but I really enjoyed Dew and Violet’s friendship (Violet is a co-worker of Dew’s at the town’s local coffee shop) and would’ve liked to see more of that within the book. However, I understand that there can only be so much covered within a story. (Slight Spoiler: I didn’t really like how Dew and Violet end up becoming a couple; their relationship doesn’t seem to be talked about very much and they decide to break up towards the end anyway? Sure their break up is mutual and they end up staying friends, but I personally didn’t see the romantic spark between them.)
Another aspect of this book I found enjoyable was how the family dynamics were done. You can tell that each member of the Rodriguez and Brickman families are trying to comfort the main characters through their grief (while some are trying to process their own as well) and I appreciated how you can see everyone is simply trying their best, are by no means perfect, and you can see their growth as people occur gradually in this story.
Overall, I’m really glad I was given the opportunity to read this novel before it’s officially released because I found my reading experience to be quite an enjoyable one. If this sounds like a book that’s up your alley, I can’t recommend picking up a copy when you get the chance once it’s out in September!