What They Always Tell Us by Martin Wilson is a 2008 YA novel about two brothers who are trying (hard at times, not at all at others) to just get through life, to understand themselves, their feelings, and those of the people they choose to surround themselves with. Alex, we learn in the first chapter, was so depressed with life that he drank Pine Sol. James, the older brother by one year, is a senior and has “senior-itus” towards school, his girlfriend, and his friends. Their confusion only intensifies with unexpected new love and a mysterious next-door neighbor.
This is a very good novel that so many teens can relate to. I haven’t been a teen since 2005, but I still empathized with the confusion of both boys, in regards to themselves, their feelings towards others, and, well, life. James is a popular tennis player but he felt alone and bored, even when surrounded by friends and classmates. Alex was happiest by himself, until he experienced sharing his time with someone else, someone who, unlike his last set of friends, wanted to be with him, too.
The teen years are ones where “best friend!” status can last a week. Where you can feel completely alone even amongst a group of 30 classmates; people you’ve known your whole life. Where one wrong move (or, wrong in the opinions of other people) could bring down every ounce of happiness you’ve ever known. Teen years are known for their drama, and this novel keeps it coming, but in a very boy-friendly way. I will definitely be recommending this book to mature-ish teens who can read about budding homosexual relationships and an attempted suicide without thinking that I’m the devil librarian/book-recommender.