Updated March 7, 2023 to add: The Words We Keep won the 2023 Schneider Family Book Award from ALA. The award is “given to an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.” If you keep reading, you’ll see I don’t dispute that Stewart does an excellent job portraying Lily’s anxiety disorder. But doing one thing well doesn’t mean a book does everything well nor does it excuse problematic elements.
Three months after the Night on the Bathroom Floor, high school junior Lily Larkin feels like her life is falling apart. Because it is.
On the Night on the Bathroom Floor Lily found her older sister Alice hurting herself. Alice hasn’t been home since. And Lily has been struggling to fill all of the Alice-shaped gaps she left behind.
If Lily can do enough at home, get good enough grades at school, make it to State in track, get into UC Berkeley, and keep doing everything right it will all be okay. Her family needs a win and all Lily has to do is keep winning.
Except Lily feels like she’s starting to lose it. She’s uninspired, overwhelmed, and struggling to hide all of it from her family and her friends.
When she’s partnered with a new student who knows all about the Night on the Bathroom Floor, Lily is worried Micah Mendez will reveal all of her family’s secrets. Instead, he might be the one person who can help Lily find her way back to herself in The Words We Keep (2022) by Erin Stewart.
Lily and her family (and most secondary characters) are presumed white. Micah is Mexican American.
The Words We Keep is Stewart’s second novel and I wish I could recommend but I can’t.
Read on for a discussion of some of the issues I had with this book including casual transphobic-leaning comments from characters and numerous spoilers: