Typically, two types of readers exist: those who read analytically to learn something and those who use books as an escape from reality. As a junior with way too many responsibilities, I usually fall under the latter, and as such picked up Brigid Kemmerer’s “More Than We Can Tell” expecting an easy, romantic young adult (YA) read. However, my expectations proved extremely unrealistic, as “More Than We Can Tell” delves into multiple emotionally-heavy topics through the point-of-view of two troubled teens.
“More Than We Can Tell” dives into the story of quiet Rev, who grew up with an abusive father who warped religion for his own malicious purposes, and gamer Emma, who embodies the girl-next-door archetype but has parents in a not-so-stable marriage. When a chance encounter brings these two teens with more in common than they can imagine together, Rev and Emma begin to explore pressing problems in their lives, from online threats to how to move on and grow from the past.
In contrast to the synopsis on the back of the book, the plot of “More Than We Can Tell” focuses more on each character’s emotional development rather than a growing romantic connection. While this would have annoyed me in another scenario, I found myself hooked for two main reasons: the writing style and the progression of the story.
Utilizing descriptive language without the use of repetition, Kemmerer paints the characters, burdened with problems both uncommon and not, in a relatable manner. I found myself sucked into Rev and Emma’s story, feeling a stir of emotions not unlike those of the characters themselves. As Rev and Emma try to untangle the dilemma of being teens in the modern age, readers are taken on a journey through the characters’ pasts, friendships, loves and losses.
Kemmerer writes about Rev’s internal conflict when he receives a letter from his abusive father and Emma’s external threats from people who want to see a female gamer fail. Using these main problems, Kemmerer writes about the ups and downs of all types of relationships: familial connections, friendships and romantic pairings.
While long, descriptive writing styles usually turn me off (reading Hemmingway drove me crazy), Kemmerer uses this style to her advantage and expands the plot in a realistic, yet fast-paced, manner. As the characters grow emotionally, so do the length of the sentences. With Rev shedding the weight of the past and Emma learning how to toughen up in the harshness of reality, the chapters, told in both Rev’s and Emma’s point of views, reflects this.
Perhaps my favorite part of the story, the themes in “More Than We Can Tell” are as subtle as they are impactful. From the faults and strengths in the foster care program to the positives and negatives of a divorce, it’s impossible to attribute just one main theme to this novel. With eloquence rarely seen in YA literature, Kemmerer makes heavy topics digestible for readers.
By the time midnight rolled around, I hadn’t realized how far into the story I had fallen, and used the momentary break to process how powerful a message “More Than We Can Tell” conveys.
Although Brigid Kemmerer’s “More Than We Can Tell” greatly differed from my expectations, I couldn’t be happier I picked up this book. Without a doubt, I highly recommend this novel for readers interested in a romantic yet powerful novel.