________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 27. . . .March 18, 2016


Donít Tell, Donít Tell, Donít Tell.

Liane Shaw.
Toronto, ON: Second Story Press, 2016.
235 pp., trade pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-1-927583-95-1.

Grades 8-11 / Ages 13-16.

Review by Bev Brenna.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Review Copy.



Iím not lying. I didnít know sheís missing. According to her, no one was going to actually ever think that.

That was the plan.

Me sitting in a police station was so not the plan.

ďFred. I need you to look at me now.Ē I can feel him leaning toward me across the table. Iím feeling shaky, and I donít trust my shields right now so I drop my head down onto my arms, like our teacher used to make us do in grade school when she was tired of us.

ďIf you have any information about Angel you have to tell me. Her parents donít know where she is. Iíve been told that you were the last person anyone saw talking to her on Friday.Ē

I keep staring down at the table. I wonder how often they clean the furniture here? I can imagine colonies of bacteria marching around, organizing themselves into battalions, ready to attack anyone foolish enough to touch the tabletop. Imagining germ armies is better than answering Officer Smith. I donít know what words would end this conversation so that I can go home and try to figure out what to do next. She said it would be easy. She said no one would get upset. She said it would work out fine.

She said I wouldnít get into trouble if I helped her, so long as I kept my mouth shut.

She told me over and over and over.
Donít tell.
Donít tell.
Donít tell.


Frederick is a 16 year old boy with Aspergerís Syndrome who is trying to understand how he got into trouble with the police while helping his friend, Angel. The first half of Donít Tell, Donít Tell, Donít Tell is told from his first person perspective while the second half continues from Angelís first person voice:

Now I know what my dad means when he says someone looks like a deer caught in the headlights. Kalís eyes are so wide that his eyeballs look like theyíre going to fall right out and bounce across the ground. The thought makes me smile a little, even though life isnít feeling very funny right at the moment.

Life is mostly feeling stupid. Everythingís all messed up.

Iím seriously hungry. I can smell the food coming from Kalís kitchen. Kalís Kitchen. Sounds like a reality show on the Food Channel.

Why am I thinking about food? The last thing I should be worrying about right now is filling my gut. I need to worry about the fact that I canít even go home.

Not yet, anyway. My parents called the cops about six seconds after I left, and now everythingís turned into a big drama festival, and Iím going to be in major trouble, and I just canít face it right now.

I couldnít tell them the real reason I wanted to leave town.

     In the beginning, readers learn from Frederickís perspective that Angel has planned to run away to a friendís house in a city where she used to live, seemingly because she is a victim of school bullying, as Frederick is. Because he promised not to tell anyone her scheme, he takes a bus to try and find her when it appears that something has gone wrong. When he cannot locate her, he returns home, only to discover that Angel is hiding in a forest area behind his house. Thatís where the story continues from Angelís perspective as she eventually confides her secret to ďKalĒóthe nickname she has for Frederick.

     The real reason Angel left town is one of the things that makes this book stand apart from other available teen reads, and it involves a backstory of sexual assault that has left the character vulnerable, disgusted, and somehow feeling responsible even though she had been drinking and doesnít remember all of the details. A plotline about someone who makes poor decisions but ultimately must learn to assign blame to an assaultís perpetrators is an original story for the intended age group and certainly worth sharing.

      Frederickís character is developed with maximum attention to the nuances of Aspergerís Syndrome, and he is both likeable and complex. A snag related to the authenticity of this character, however, involves pacing and story comprehensionóboth sacrificed to some extent while his mile a minute brain goes off on tangents.

      The move into Angelís perspective is also accompanied by difficulties. Although the typeface changes as readers move into her first person account, this isnít a clear indicator of a new narrator, nor are readers easily aware that this second voice will stay with the novel until the last chapter. Other signals are recommended to assist readers through what might be a somewhat rocky transition for some.


Bev Brenna is a literacy professor at the University of Saskatchewan who has 10 published books for young people.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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