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Book review: What We Never Say by Paulette Stout

What We Never Say by Paulette Stout

I recently finished What We Never Say: Bold Journeys Book One by Paulette Stout. I was curious what this author, who I had never read before, would bring to the table, especially as this book deals with the #MeToo movement. It explores the movement in a way that few works of fiction have done so far, as I’ll explain below. Let’s get into my book review!

Disclosure: I was given a copy of this book in return for an honest review. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Caution, there are spoilers below!

What’s different about What We Never Say

Here’s what had me looking forward to reading What We Never Say. It’s a look at one man’s story of sexual assault. There are way more fiction books about women’s perspectives with the #MeToo movement than men’s in Western society.

While I focus on women’s experiences here at my blog, that is largely because women are my focus here, as indicated by my blog’s title. Men are sexually abused, too – as are other genders.

While I can speak to my own experiences of having experienced sexual assault, I cannot put myself in the shoes of anyone else. Although What We Never Say is a work of fiction, I was looking forward to understanding more about what the male character went through, the ramifications of it, and how he spoke up as a survivor.

Why have there not been more novels on this topic? Perhaps some authors don’t want to tackle the sexual assault topic. Perhaps they think about how Western society puts men into stereotypes of having to be strong and not cry, and they are reluctant to present the reality of men as vulnerable and the victim of women sexual predators. These are just thoughts on my part as I wonder about it.

Opening of the book

I liked how author Paulette Stout opened the book with Rebecca’s friend Barbara telling her to turn to a certain page in a fashion magazine, and Rebecca going to a magazine stand to see what this means. Rebecca opens up the mag MOD to see her boyfriend Kyle featured there. Rebecca, who has been dating Kyle for a year and now lives with him, had no idea he modeled. The photo was dated 11 years prior. Why had he kept this part of his life a secret?

Immediately I was hooked. I wanted to know what was the story behind his modeling career. Right away, my hunch was that he had experienced sexual abuse at some point in his previous career (he is now a food photographer). As I continued to read, my hunch was correct, and he was ashamed to share the experience and open up about the trauma to anyone, including his partner Rebecca.

It was a strong opening that caught my attention and got me reading. But I found that this was not the only time I was able to predict what was to come later in the book. I like unpredictable turns when reading, just like in a TV series, so it would have been nice to have one or two.

Great writing style

Paulette Stout has a wonderful writing style. It is easy to read and flows between paragraphs, and from chapter to chapter. There is no awkward phrasing.

And the conversations are natural, enabling me to visualize the characters through the pages of What We Never Say. That was especially important for bringing a sense of realness to the main characters of Rebecca, Kyle, and Jane.

I can tell this book has been edited well. It has a fast pace too throughout.

Given her strength at writing, author Paulette Stout will no doubt continue to pen great books. I think this novel had a lot of potential, and she brought her A game with the writing style, but I think it fell short in a few ways. Let me explain.

Unlikely coincidences

Coincidences happen. They do. But the ones in What We Never Say were unbelievable, in my opinion, and, unfortunately, that had the effect of taking away a sense of realness from the plot. That’s a shame, as I think there was real potential here to explore one man’s story as a sexual assault survivor.

Yes, I know this novel is fiction. But it still had the ability to bring attention to a topic that, as mentioned earlier, hasn’t gotten much attention in the #MeToo movement here in North America.

Let me give you an example of one coincidence. Rebecca’s blog Bedroom Diary receives interest from MOD magazine, asking her to pen an article for the mag. This is the same magazine that she saw Kyle model for in the opening scene. And, yes, the woman who assaulted him years before is a bigwig at MOD.

Again, I know this is a fictional plot. But being able to bring plausibility to it would have helped me applaud its overall message more of bringing attention to sexual assault survivors.

Why is the title What We Never Say?

I think the title is a good one. It speaks to two different ideas. Firstly, we rarely talk about men who were sexually harassed. This book brought this topic to the forefront, and for that I think highly of the book. While I think it fell short in some ways, the premise was a good one, and the subject matter very important.

Secondly, a subplot in the book is Rebecca’s issues with achieving sexual climax in the past and how she got therapy to help her achieve it. She also had the support of Kyle. Sexual health, pleasure, and libido are taboo topics in society, so they are not often talked about. I say well done to author Paulette Stout for writing on this topic. The way the book covers this topic encourages women to speak up about orgasms and empower themselves to achieve pleasure, as Rebecca did.


As explained, I liked the writing style and opening of the book.

The plot was one that brought attention to a subject that fictional books haven’t explored a lot: The experiences of men who were sexually harassed. I give major props to the author for focusing on this topic.

But the unrealistic coincidences in the book took away from the important subject matter, in my opinion. I also saw some things happening before they did in the novel. It would have been nice to have some unpredictable moments as a reader. For those reasons, I give What We Never Say 3 out of 5 stars.

This subject matter will not be for everyone. I am glad I read it. At the end of the book are resources for those who experience unwanted sexual experiences.

1 thought on “Book review: What We Never Say by Paulette Stout”

  1. Young men and women fall pray to beats. They stories of sexual assault on men are very common in some segments of Pakistani society. Unfortunately, neither the government nor people have done anything for such crimes.

    Recently a criminal sexually assaulted a boy and posted his video on the Twitter. No action was taken.

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