Read Audiobooks What They Always Tell Us By Martin Wilson –

JAMES AND ALEX have barely anything in common any—least of all their experiences in high school, where James is a popular senior and Alex is suddenly an outcast But at home, there is Henry, the precocious yearold across the street, who eagerly befriends them both And when Alex takes up running, there is James's friend Nathen, who unites the brothers in moving and unexpected ways

10 thoughts on “What They Always Tell Us

  1. Nancy Nancy says:

    Cross-posted at Shelf Inflicted and at Outlaw Reviews

    What They Always Tell Us is a very simple, quiet story told from the perspective of two brothers who live in Alabama. James is a high school senior. Even though he’s smart, has lots of friends, and is on the tennis team, the only thing he wants is to go to college and leave Alabama. Alex, a junior, is James’ younger brother. While he’s not as smart, athletic, or as popular as James, he has other qualities that James lacks – Alex is sensitive, caring, generous and compassionate.

    Alex and James were once very close, until an incident at a party resulted in Alex’ hospitalization and the loss of his friends. Upset, embarrassed, and unable to understand, James withdraws from his brother, slowly severing the bond that once held them together.

    Alex develops a love for running and tries out for the cross-country team. His life takes a turn for the better when his teammate and his brother’s friend, Nathen, turns out to be more than just a friend. I really liked how Alex’ sexuality is not the main focus of this novel. It is treated as a part of his life, just as his relationship with James, his friendships, and his running are.

    Even though I disliked James in the beginning for his callous treatment of Alex, I really enjoyed how he changed and matured.

    While this story is simply told, the characters are engaging, interesting, flawed, and very believable. I felt a deep connection with the characters, particularly Alex, and enjoyed spending time with them as they interact with family, friends, neighbors and cope with loneliness, identity issues, rejection, and acceptance.

    What They Always Tell Us is a wonderful story. I wish it was around when I was a teenager.

  2. Thomas Thomas says:

    What They Always Tell Us is about two brothers, James and Alex, who are unlike each other in many ways - James is outgoing and popular, while Alex is compassionate and reserved. After Alex attempts to take his life at a party, James is left wondering what went wrong. Then, Alex meets James's friend Nathan, and the two form a friendship that could grown into something more.

    This book is simple and stunning. As of May 2011, even after two years, it remains one of the best books I've ever read and my favorite young-adult novel that includes gay characters. The writing moved me to tears at one point - every time I pick up another book for teens with glbt themes I can't help but think I hope this is as good as What They Always Tell Us...

    Not only did this novel provide a great read, it also helped me with personal struggles in my life. I am forever grateful to Barnes and Nobles, where this book happened to be on display as I walked by the young-adult section, and Martin Wilson, for writing such a quiet, uplifting story.

    *cross-posted from my blog the quiet voice.

  3. Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ says:

    Sometimes we read books whose wicked plots and twists, while blatantly aimed to make us feel something, fail their purpose and sometimes, sometimes, we come across a quiet book which lead us to strong and real feelings.

    What they always tell us is that kind of books, and that's why, even though I have issues I can't overtake, lowering my rating below 3 stars wouldn't be fair in my opinion. I mean, I ate it up for fuck sake! Indeed contrary to many readers, my main problem wasn't the pacing, because I was never bored. It's a quiet book for sure, not our standard roller-coaster, but I do enjoy reading this kind of books sometimes, especially when they manage to make me feel, as it was the case here.

    This being said, despite my utter involvement in Alex and James's lives (well, mostly Alex's, if I'm being honest), I can't help but feel cheated somehow, as the last 25% disappointed me and left me almost empty. Don't you hate it when you're LOVING a book and then you're only waiting for it to end? WORST. FEELING. EVER. Although I adored the first half, I began to slowly change my mind, finishing it in complete exasperation.

    ▧ This story deals with bullying and the importance of family in a believable and touching way, as we follow James and Alex, two brothers who try to build their relationship again after Alex became suddenly an outcast. Even if James never was my favorite person (mostly he's a know it all jerk for me, especially when it comes to girls - what a slut-shamer he is, I can't even), I understood the need and the interest to get his POV too.

    Alex though. Alex broke my heart. Alex made me smile so big. Alex made me cry, too.

    ▧ What I really appreciated was the way bullying was portrayed, because to me it was realistic - Sometimes being ignored, laughed at, quietly belittled can be more hard to live than many persons acknowledge it, sadly, and Martin Wilson does a great job to picture the thin line between friendship (see the quotation marks? Yeah?), teasing and bullying. To be frank, I didn't get what Tyler's deal was (apart from being an asshole, that is), but we don't always understand why people act that way in real life too unfortunately.

    Tyler, in particular, used to bombard him with stinging comments, punctuated always by an empty Just kidding, Alex.

    ➸ This sort of passive-aggressive comments is so common - and there they were supposed to be still friends. Damn. The guy pissed me off.

    ▧ Moreover, what we get here is a portray of realistic characters, with their flaws and their best parts. When I say that they sounded like real teenagers to me, that means that they sometimes think the most stupid things (trust me) - that I had to roll my eyes a few times, actually, but I didn't mind, because for once, I could have imagined them being people actually living.

    ▧ As for the romance, I must say that Alex and Nathen's gradual and growing relationship was fantastic to follow. They were the cutest, really, and I shipped them from the beginning to the end. Indeed I loved how Nathen tried to break Alex's shell without never being intrusive or judgmental. He was the best, really, even if he irked me with his addiction to the word BUDDY (for real - how many times can he say that?). The ending frustrated me so much though.

    ▧ I love when YA doesn't try to do YA. That is to say, a dick's a dick, that kind of things (the first shower scene made me laugh way too much for my own good - I don't even know if I was supposed to laugh. Oh, well)

    ▧ The whole subplot with their young neighbor was messy, especially towards the end where it was completely ridiculous. Let me sum it up : there's Henry, a little boy about 10 years old who moved with his mother at the beginning of the year and who's having a hard time fitting in at school. Nobody really knows why they're here and what his mother does for a living, therefore of course, of course, unfortunately, people can't mind their own business, and you know, speculate about them and wonder why they move around the country so much. Not to mention that the mother is gorgeous so you can infer in what place people's guesses go. Sigh. Add some drama lama in the end and you'll get an annoyed reader (yes, me). Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy the friendship building between Henry and the two brothers but the whole drama with his mother got to my nerves, especially in the end because it stole the show and frankly? I didn't care.

    ▧ The lack of world-building. Yes, you read correctly, I wanted more world-building in my contemporary - or is it, really? After reading it I looked up the date of release and it was released in 2008, not so far away then, right? Now, tell me, did the teenagers had not cell phones and internet in 2008? Huh? Of course they did. Therefore from what I picked in the book (and trust me, there's almost nothing other than the lack of things) I can infer that the story is set in the 90s and therefore I would have LOVED to get some pop culture references or something, anything, really, to help me put the story in perspective because yes, I do think that it's important when we deal with how people react, especially when it comes to tolerance. That's why I'm shelving it as historical romance.

    ▧ The ending was unsatisfying at best, and mostly frustrating. Look, I'm not usually bothered by open ending but as I said earlier, what maddened me was the fact that we focus on the neighbors' subplot and I didn't fucking care about that. Finally, and it's my own inner brat talking, why the fuck do we get James's POV for the last chapter?

    ► I wanted Alex's so bad, and I don't give a damn if I'm being a sulking brat at this point.

  4. Jo Jo says:

    I’m going to shamelessly steal an idea from this book to describe how I feel about this story.

    You know when you’re younger (Or, OK, when you’re not so young if you’re anything like me) and you’re on a set of swings in your back garden? And I’m not talking about the swings in the park that are properly secured with cement or whatever they use. These are the ones your dad put up in the summer when he’d had a bit too much Carlsberg and he was drunk on burgers.

    And, while you’re mid-swing, there’s that split second moment where you’re not sure whether you’ll crunch back down into the grass or you’ll tip backwards and end up skinning your elbows or, more likely, get concussion.

    That split second moment is what this entire book felt like. Not sure whether it’s going to be happy, or sad ending… could go either way.

    I had a sneaking suspicion I was going to love this book just from reading the synopsis. It ticks all the boxes that I want ticked when I’m looking for a story. Siblings, boys, sexuality, growing up, contemporary. Tick, tick, tick, tiiiiiick.

    Thankfully, I wasn’t wrong.

    What They Always Tell Us is such a gorgeous book and from the first page I was completely hooked. It took me a while to get my head around the third person, present tense (I think the only other book I’ve read with this style is The Piper’s Son) but once I did I was surprised at how well it worked with the story.

    This book deals with a lot of diverse and sensitive issues, but with the story told in the way it was, there was this wonderful distance that stopped the book floundering in angst-ridden drama. Mr Wilson’s style of writing is so understated, so realistic and deals with the complicated emotions in a refreshingly matter-of-fact manner.

    I really hate it when authors really hammer issues home to you and you end up just wanting to fling the book across the room and yell “OK! WE GET IT!”

    All the characters were brilliant but I think my favourite was Alex. I loved how his story developed and the twisted and the turns it took; some I had guessed and others I had no idea about. And I adored how much time Mr Wilson took to develop the character, fleshing him out and making him into a real person, as opposed to a vessel for the Important Issues. I know that sounds stupid and stating-the-obvious-y but… well, not every author does that.

    There was only one issue I had was that I was more invested in Alex’s story and thoughts than James’. I kind of felt that James’ chapters, although still interesting, lacked the emotional impact that Alex’s had. They sometimes felt like they were just in there to highlight Alex’s chapters when, in fact, they were doing fine on their own.

    However, I did like the way that Mr Wilson portrayed James’ reaction to his brothers “accident”. It was fantastically written in all its uncomfortable and brutal honesty.

    Just recently, I’ve been lucky to find this pool of brilliant American authors that I’d never read before and Martin Wilson is definitely part of the gang. If his next books are anything like What They Always Tell Us then I cannot wait.
    Oh, you want to know which way the swing falls in this book?

    Pfft, like I’m going to tell you.
    Come on now.

  5. Rosalinda *KRASNORADA* Rosalinda *KRASNORADA* says:

    This book reminded me of one of my fave songs from Vetusta Morla

    There is this part that says 'fue tan largo el duelo que al final, casi lo confundo con mi hogar' and it's soooo fitting because that's how Alex, one of the MCs, feels for most of the book but no worries amig@s because this is not one of those sad stories I usually read. This one taught me that there is light at the end of the tunnel, you can fight depression guys and if you try hard enough you can win the battle

    Even though there is a kind of romance part and despite the fact that is MM do NOT expect this to be a book mainly focused on romance because it is not. This is a book about family, about two brothers that were very closed once but not anymore. Not anymore because James doesn't get why Alex wanted to stop living and instead of trying to figure things out he gets as far away from Alex as he can.

    We all know that someone who for one reason or another suffers of depression. Sometimes it's just a friend of a friend and you just feel sorry for them but that's all. Sometimes it can be someone from your family who you are not very close to. However, sometimes it can be someone you really care for and that's when it hits hard because you have no idea what to do, and not doing anything is all you can do. Support them, being there for them but it's not easy. I guess that's why James acts that way and I guess we all have been like James at one point in our lives. This book felt like a slap of reality, it felt like 'hey, don't look the other way. That would not help'. I won't lie, it was slow at times (specially James POV chapters), but it all made sense at the end.

    It's also a book about Henry, the 10 year old neighbour who made me fall in love completely with this story. Because if there is one good thing that stands out in this story is its secondary characters, I loved them ALL. They were just humans, with their good and bad things. So it's really funny when as I reader I started judging them all but at the end I was kind of dissappointed in myself for being so opinionated instead of understanding. It served me well, I guess.

    So as the song I mentioned earlier says, this had a hopeful ending.

    'Cayeron los bordes
    y el vaso ya está lleno.
    Y ahora sólo intento vaciar
    Sólo necesito despegar'

  6. LenaRibka LenaRibka says:

    Audible headphones_icon_1

    It is my third book in a row that I rated with 5 stars, and I am a bit confused of myself. But I don't think that I became less demanding, maybe I just LEARNED to filter books that appeal to me. Or maybe I have just a lucky hand to chose the right books for me.

    Of course a story about two brothers, James and Alex, is the main story-line in this book, but it is in the first place a beautifully written wonderful story of growing up, discovering yourself, learning to come out of the crisis stronger than ever. It is a touching story about insecurity, and loneliness, the hardships of being a grown-up.

    It is a gorgeous story of first love, true friendship and family ties.

    I listened to an audiobook, but it is one of those books, that it is difficult to ruin, doesn't matter how hard a bad narrator would try to do it. Luckily, Jesse Einstein did a good job, and I enjoyed both - the story itself and its audio version. So you're free to chose what you prefer.

    Highly recommended!

  7. Merphy Napier Merphy Napier says:

    This story is more about characters growing into better versions of themselves more than it's about any sort of plot - so I recommend this for character driven readers.

    Extremely real and likable characters with very realistic and heartwarming growth.

    The true downfall with this story is the sloppy plot. Alex's plot line was beautifully done for the most part but there were a lot of different threads that are focused on throughout the story and in the end, they didn't all connect or even come to a conclusion - it just ended. I was really interested in everything in this book so I was sad to see some of it poorly (or not at all) resolved. But despite that, I really enjoyed this story and I loved these characters. I recommend.

  8. Jennifer Jennifer says:

    This is a great book dealing with depression, suicide attempts, and sexuality. However, it deals with so much more like compassion, relationships between brothers, social expectations, rumors, fear, and social posturing. I am not sure I can really describe exactly how well this books delves into a young persons psyche just trust me it does it well.

    Told in alternating chapters between 2 brothers (1 year apart) dealing with the attempted suicide of the younger brother. This book is NOT heavy handed and treats their relationship as well as the sexual identity of the younger brother with some of the more touching, realistic writing I have ever read in a teen book. There are a few slow parts, and a few pat scenes but if you only read 1 teen book this year, this should be it!

  9. Tyler Goodson Tyler Goodson says:

    Some books take you somewhere outside yourself, someplace you couldn't have imagined. Other books know you. This is one of those. I've been to these places, I've known these people. They are me. I started this morning, and if this review were written in a letter the paper would be tear stained and the ink would be running I've cried so many times. Reading this was restorative, like I've been watching one long episode of Oprah, only better. I'm ready to live my best life now or something. Read it. I know you'll love it.

  10. Ami Ami says:

    I bought this book several years ago -- before I knew about MM romance and just got acquainted with LGBT fiction. I haven't had the chance to read it because well, no romance made it less appealing. Until now, when I got bored with what published MM titles could offer ...

    This story is WONDERFUL. It follows the life of two brothers:

    Alex, the younger one, who feels alienated and lonely and different. His friends look at him as loser, after he drank a bottle of Pine-Sol at a party. And James, the big brother, who is the 'star' in the family, smart, an athlete ... but lately he feels restless and wants to get out from the town. In addition, he also feels slightly guilty because he isn't the good big brother for Alex.

    I don't have brothers myself, so the dynamic of brothers always interest me. I love how both Alex and James grow up throughout this story. Alex finds what makes him happy, in running and in Nathen, James's friend, who later becomes more than just friend. While James finally makes a stance over people who hurt Alex, and he finally feels like he's the big brother again.

    There is a secondary character that also wins my heart: a 10-year-old boy named Henry, who becomes a friend somehow for both brothers.

    It's a lovely book about adolescents. ALTHOUGH, just like a number of LGBT Young-Adult Fiction that I have read, I want more of a closure, a promise of HEA so to speak. (view spoiler)[I want to read the scene where Alex tells his parents about his sexuality. Because his parents don't know yet. James knows and Alex tells his therapist. But not his parents. I also want a confirmation that even if Nathen goes to NYU after graduation, he and Alex will be just fine (hide spoiler)]