Title: The Words that Fly Between Us
Written by: Sarah Carroll
Cover illustrated by: Thy Bui
Published by: Simon & Schuster
An excellent YA book about learning to stand up for yourself and also covers the transition from one school to another. For me it was not so much the plot of the book that resonated with me but the underlying messages hidden within the plot.
The Words that Fly Between Us is about thirteen year old Lucy Fitzsimons whose family life is not as perfect as people think. In public her dad is warm smiles and sweet words. He look like the perfect loving husband and father and as far as Lucy can remember he used to be before he became over-stressed with work, and bullied himself by the owner of the bank. But behind closed doors he becomes another person, as she vividly portrays in her drawings. He is sour and bitter and the words that come out of his mouth are vicious and suffocating. Yet the words he does not say hurt just as badly. Lucy wakes up each morning hoping her dad is in a good mood.
Her best friend Megan is also being bullied by words from Hazel, a girl she knows from orchestra. On the surface Hazel pretends to be Megan’s friend but she is always making snide comments about the way Megan looks and acts. Lucy can’t believe Megan does not notice but in the same way Lucy pretends everything is ok at home, Megan pretends everything is ok with Hazel.
The whole book is a metaphor for how words can hurt just as badly as sticks and stones. Throughout the book, Sarah Carroll, expertly describes how the words that fly from her father’s mouth stick to surfaces, hide in wallpaper and drop to the carpet like invisible stains, lingering and filling the house with sadness. But it is not only the words people say. Sarah Carroll cleverly compares this to the words people write as well because Hazel not only bullies Megan with the things she says but also with the comments she anonymously writes on Megan’s blog.
The themes of truth, friendship and not believing the things other people say, ring strong and clear on every page, even in the beliefs Lucy has about her neighbour Ms Cusack. Her dad has told her Ms Cusack is poor, crazy cat woman. Lucy starts to explore the secret lives of her neighbours, in some cases by using the attic that is connected to every house on her side of the street, and she finds out her father’s words are not always true.
Through Lucy’s desire to help people she discovers words can help people too. The words in the books Ms Cusack give her are a source of knowledge that helps her to make sense of her own world and the note a young tramp gives her in exchange for train money, that simply says ‘I hope you feel safe all day’ provides Lucy with a new perspective and understanding. In the end, both Lucy and Megan gain the courage to stand up to their bullies. Lucy also realises the truth will set her free when she reveals the shady deals her father and his associates are involved with. In the long run it helps free her dad from his bully, as well as freeing her from her dad.
An excellent book to use in the classroom as a means to discuss bullying and trolling. It is also a great book for empowering young people to stand up for themselves and to not keep bullying a secret. The Words that Fly Between Us clearly demonstrates that once the bully is exposed, action can be taken to stop them. This book really makes you think.