Book review: Lost for Words by Alice Kuipers

I recently finished reading a really good young adult novel called Lost for Words. It takes place in London. 15 year old Sophie has just recently lost her sister in a terrible accident. That’s all we know in the beginning. It’s fall, the accident happened a year ago, but Sophie is unable or unwilling to remember details. The book is a journal iven as a suggestion by a therapist that she’s been forced to see. She literally will sit through apointments not talking at all. She sees the therapist as pitying and she is unable to trust her to open up. But soon finds the journal a place to document events of her days and weeks.

Sophie is incredibly lonely and isolated. Her best friend Abi tries to talk with her as do others but she really keeps to herself. She meets a new friend Rose Leigh and they form a friendship. She is incredibly intuitive and understanding about what Sophie can and can’t handle in conversation and in different activities. She has a very rocky relationship with her mom who copes with her grief by hoarding lost objects. She writes poems which beautifully illustrate how she’s feeling. There is one poem that she continues to work on throught the book and that expresses her deep emotions around her sister’s death and her own grieving process.

Internally things become so intense with everything bottled up that Sophie has extreme panic attacks that seem to happen several times a day. These leave her breathless unable to talk and sick in the bathroom. As well as bring up flashbacks of the trauma both she and her sister went through.

It is through writing, and her friendship with Rose leigh, plus a growing conviction that she needs to get help or go crazy, that she gets a new therapist. The therapy sessions aren’t really described at all except to say that she is able to develop a good relationship with this therapist and learn how to work through her panic. The emphasis for her healing seems to be internal through the writing and reflecting on her life.

I highly recommend this book. It realistically portrays the devastation trauma can cause. As well as the after effects and shows that you can’t just “get over” what happened even if people around you expect that. Also that everyone handles it in different ways. It also destigmatizes panic attacks and hopefully will show readers that these are something many struggle with and there is hope. The different country setting, with its varied language and culture also was refreshing.

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