ARC Review: The Words We Keep

It’s been three months since The Night on the Bathroom Floor–when Lily found her older 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 realizes that it’s the words she’s been swallowing that desperately want to break through. 

Let me start off by saying… WHAT. A. BOOK.

I was captivated by Lily’s narration and how her inner thoughts, the monsters, would just jump in when they wanted to. There were words that she wanted to say to her family and friends, but wouldn’t and instead of just thinking them, they’d be off to the side with a strikeout through them to indicate she was scared to reveal how she really felt. The use of poetry in the book was perfect to show her struggle with anxiety and trying to not let the monsters win.

All the characters were great in this, even the ones I hated (*cough*Damon*cough*), as they were real, raw, and a perfect portrayal of how people function in real life. You have those who are outwardly struggling with mental health, like Alice and Micah, those who try to help them, the girls’ dad, step-mom, and youngest sister, those who are silently suffering, Lily, and those who are insensitive to mental health, Damon and other students. I obviously wanted to punch characters like Damon and Kali, who were complete jerks about knowing Micah had been a patient at Fairview, but sadly, there are people like them in the real world. 

“People always talk about mental illness like it’s a heroic war with a monstrous disease. But the fact is, we’re fighting ourselves. Getting up, every day, facing down the beasts because I can never beat them. Because they are me.”

I really felt for Lily in this book. Not only is she struggling to deal with her sister’s attempted suicide months after the incident, but now feels like she needs to be the one in the family to keep herself together. Except, she’s kind of losing it. Ever since finding Alice that night, the monsters in her head have only gotten worse. Telling her to be more perfect, yet also that she’s not enough, and that she failed Alice when Alice needed her the most. I can see how other readers found Lily annoying – she did repeat herself a lot – but I think that goes in with her anxiety disorder. I know from my own anxiety that I can fixate on something and be repetitive about it until it’s perfect, or until I fix it.

The thoughts about how other perceive her are very relatable as well. Not in just the normal “I don’t want to look like a weirdo in front of everyone” thoughts, but the ones that are stuck on repeat and convince you that someone hates you (when, in fact, they don’t). So yes, Lily’s thoughts could be repetitive, self-centered, and annoying, but that’s life with an anxiety disorder. Trust me, I know. I annoy myself with my thoughts, but sometimes you just can’t make them stop.

“How do I articulate what’s going on in my head? How do I explain me?”

Micah, what can I say about him? He was a delightful angel who was battling his own demons. Since we meet him when he’s out of Fairview, we only learn a little of his past and struggle with depression, but enough to want to hug him and make it all better. He used his own knowledge of fighting monsters to recognize it in Lily before she was ready to admit it, and helped to give her strength to start fighting them. His way of fighting his demons is through art, but he’s able to use that to help Lily find her inner muse to write poetry.

Note: give me a brooding, male artist with a troubled past any day and I’ll love him to bits, and that’s exactly what I did with Micah.

This book beautifully tackles multiple mental health disorders and the stigma against them. It also tackles the aftermath of a suicide attempt and how it affects those close to the person in a real way that deals with the trials and errors of helping that person after. It’s just a great book that I didn’t want to put down, and one that I highly recommend, especially if you loved books like All the Bright Places or Girl in Pieces.

I 1000% will be buying this when it comes out on March 15th!

Rating: 5/5 stars

*I received a free e-galley from NetGalley of this in exchange for an honest review*

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