Summary: Dealing with the aftermath of her sister Emily’s death in a terrorist attack in London, England, Sophie is overcome with sorrow, grief, and some guilt. She’s seeing a therapist she can’t talk to, distancing herself from her former friends and her mother and having panic attacks. Writing in a journal given to her by her therapist helps, but it takes a long time before Sophie can face the painful memories of that fateful day and start to move past them. Thankfully she has some friends old and new who won’t give up on her, giving Sophie the support she needs to decide to make changes in her coping methods and a dose of reality.
Number of Pages: 210
Age Range: 14-16
Review: Sophie’s story is a heartfelt tale about coping with loss. There were so many moments I love in the book, such as Sophie journeying back to her childhood home in an attempt to hold on to her memories of when everything was perfect and the distraction she seeks with Dan to mixed results. The dynamic between Sophie and her mother is especially powerful, because Sophie reserves all her anger for her mother who seems to simply be trying to reach out. It takes some time before Sophie realises this, and in the process there is more anger as she feels her mother is moving on prematurely. Sophie’s mother doesn’t give up on her though, and ends up taking on some of the anger Sophie has for herself for her own actions.
I also love the theme of writing in Lost for Words. Sophie’s poetry and journal writing prove to be a kind of bloodletting for her, helping her get the feelings and memories that are hurting her out and onto the page. It is really the journal writing that sparks the changes in Sophie, as she is finally able to sort things out and examine them. She’s a very introspective character, and her grief journey is a thoughtful one.
Also, the sub-plot of students’ reactions to Kalila, a Muslim girl, in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks was intriguing. I was glad Kuipers wrote Sophie as someone who knew who to blame for the attacks and didn’t waste her time spreading hate against innocents who happened to be following the same religion.
This is a story with two titles and two covers. While originally published as The Worst Thing She Ever Did, it was re-titled Lost for Words and the colour of the girl’s eye on the cover went from brown to blue. I liked the changes, because when I read Kuipers’ book the first time back in 2009, my main focus was on finding out what the worst thing Sophie ever did was. But it turns out to be the worst thing Emily did, and it’s not a bad thing at all, just a piece of extremely bad luck. Lost for Words gives a more accurate idea of what the book is about, Sophie’s experience with overwhelming grief and guilt over her sister’s death. Also, I can’t find out for sure, but is that actress Charlotte Sullivan on the cover?
Once again, Kuipers’ writing is filled with beautiful prose and poignant, powerful moments. Without the suspense restriction of yesterday, I had a lot more memorable quotes for Sophie’s story. By the end of the book I was reluctant for it to end and to let Sophie go as a character because her tale was heartbreakingly honest, but I was confident that she was going to be okay. Changed forever of course, yet still able to go on.
“I went to Rosa-Leigh’s house. When we arrived her stepmum gave us a cup of tea, and we chatted with her for a few minutes. Andrew was at a playdate, so she wasn’t running around after him. She said, ‘I remember when I was your age and the whole world felt like it was opening up to me. It was -‘ Her phone rang, so she didn’t finish the sentence.
If there had been time, I’d have told her the world wasn’t opening up, rather closing like a flower when the sun goes down. I’d have said the world sometimes feels completely closed, like Emily’s bedroom door.” – Sophie from Lost for Words by Alice Kuipers, page 76
“I woke up, and I was having my period. I hate periods. They just seem the most stupid, pointless thing for someone who’s sixteen. I don’t want to get pregnant (not that there’s any chance of that, even if I did want to). No sixteen-year-old in the universe wants to get pregnant, so WHY do we have periods? Some girls start when they’re ten. Why does a ten-year-old need to have a period? Mine is so irregular I can never predict it, which is a nightmare.” – Sophie from Lost for Words by Alice Kuipers, page 85
“Later we sat on the beach for the final moments of the day. We both loved sunsets. The sun melted into the sea. The light bounced off the water, making the surface of the ocean look like the scales of a fish. I wondered aloud what it would be like to be a mermaid.” – Sophie from Lost for Words by Alice Kuipers, page 88
“If I was sure there was a God, I’d have this to say to Him right now: ‘STOP MESSING EVERYTHING UP FOR EVERYONE!'” – Sophie from Lost for Words by Alice Kuipers, page 110
“Mark continues to get much better from his heart attack, although apparently he’s very shaken. Adults say that a lot: ‘Shaken.’ It doesn’t seem the right word to me to describe how you feel after something bad’s happened. Shaken is how you feel when you’ve been on a roller-coaster, all lively and buzzing. Shaken is how Mark felt when he swam in the lake that night, I’m sure. I could see in his eyes how he was all shaken up inside, happy, excited. When something bad’s happened, you feel numb, like it’s not real. You feel dead on the inside. Not shaken at all.” – Sophie from Lost for Words by Alice Kuipers, page 139
“God, I wish I could go back to the night I was sitting with Emily on the roof. I wish I could hold time still at that moment and never move forward. I wish I could be there forever.” – Sophie from Lost for Words by Alice Kuipers, page 173
The windows failed
I could not see
Hold on to her tightly
(an orange leaf)
Hugeness shut quietly
I suddenly couldn’t breathe
(take deep breaths)
I could go back
if only it would make sense
I held her hand
watched the sun go down
When I was finished, I looked up and light streaked the sky in fingers of pink and blue. Then, as I was watching, the sun glimmered over the roofs of the houses and appeared in a fireball of molten orange. I blinked. For a moment I could have sworn Emily was sitting right there next to me.” – Sophie writing a poem about her sister Emily from Lost for Words by Alice Kuipers, pages 208-209