SAY IT OUT LOUD, by Allison Varnes, Random House Books for Young Readers, Aug. 24, 2021, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)
A girl must face her fears in order to stand up for what’s right in Allison Varnes’ middle-grade novel Say It Out Loud.
Charlotte Andrews is perfectly fine being quiet — in fact, she prefers it. When she doesn’t speak, people can’t make fun of her stutter. But when she witnesses bullying on the school bus and doesn’t say anything, her silence comes between her and her best friend.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, her parents signed her up for musical theater. Charlotte doesn’t want to speak onstage, but at least she doesn’t stutter when she sings. Then, just as she starts to find her voice, the arts program is cut. Charlotte can’t stay silent anymore.
So she begins to write. Anonymous encouraging notes to her classmates. Letters to the school board to save the school musical. And an essay about the end of her best friendship–and her hope that she can still save it.
Words could save Charlotte Andrews and everything she believes in . . . if she just believes in herself enough to speak up. —Synopsis provided by Random House Kids
Say It Out Loud is the second middle-grade book I’ve read in the past month that has someone with a stutter as the protagonist. The first book, The Boy Who Made Everyone Laugh, by Helen Rutter, features a boy who uses humor to help people see beyond is stutter. In Say It Out Loud, Charlotte finds her voice though pen and paper.
While Charlotte’s stutter is part of her story, the main theme of Say It Out Loud is bullying. Charlotte may initially hide because of her stutter, but it’s the trauma of harassment that keeps her silent. Author Allison Varnes does an excellent job creating these scenes. The feelings practically leap off the page. She helps readers to see why people would choose silence while showing a path to speaking out.
Some of the characters are fairly stereotypical — the bullies, the mean girl in the musical, etc. — but they’re all relatable, too, which sort of balances everything out.
Say It Out Loud is a fairly quick read that will speak to readers on a number of levels.