Title: What No One Else Can Hear
Author: Brynn Stein
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: July 27, 2015
Genre(s): Contemporary, Paranormal
Page Count: 220
Reviewed by: Jewel
Heat Level: 1 flames out of 5
Rating: 2.4 stars out of 5
Young Stevie Liston is diagnosed with autism, but is really an overwhelmed empath who mentally called out for help. Jesse McKinnon heard him in a dream from clear across the country, and that dream sent him on a six-year search to find Stevie. Once they meet, they think everything will work out and Jesse will help Stevie cope.
Stevie does improve immensely, but a disgruntled coworker of Jesse’s conspires with Stevie’s estranged but politically powerful father to keep Stevie and Jesse apart with trumped-up legal charges claiming Jesse sexually abused the boy. Jesse must watch helplessly as Stevie loses all the advances he’s made.
If it wasn’t for his growing relationship with his coworker Drew Ferguson, Jesse knows he wouldn’t have the strength to fight for his rights and Stevie’s future. Drew just might be the real thing, but with the very real possibility of serving jail time for a crime he didn’t commit, Jesse’s hopes for a future with Drew might be doomed.
What No One Else Can Hear was a book with a lot of potential. I loved the premise, that Stevie was an empath who just couldn’t block other peoples emotions and they overwhelmed him, manifesting in a very similar way to Autism. I found it fresh and intriguing. And for the first half of the book, or so, I really enjoyed it. The pacing was pretty good and I loved the interactions between Stevie and Jesse. Stevie really came alive when Jesse finally found him. The second half of the book just fell apart for me, however. Frankly, the story kept going and going, when it should have been resolving. And Chuck was used over and over as a plot device, when he really should have been in jail for fabricating evidence, perjury, assault, and a few other things.
The editing in this ARC was also not very good. There were numerous instances where there would be a partial sentence that didn’t seem to belong, and punctuation and spelling errors galore. It was enough to take me out of the story. It is my hope that these issues are corrected in the final version of the book. Unfortunately, I had to work with what I was given.
One thing I found disappointing throughout the book, was the lack of romance between Jesse and Drew. They become best friends over the course of several months and sort of hint to each other that they might want more, but they didn’t really engage in taking their relationship past the friends stage for way too long. And, once they did, I didn’t really feel it. There were only a couple sex scenes that weren’t completely fade-to-black and they weren’t described very well and it seemed more like Jesse and Drew were just being silly together rather than making love. It just felt awkward. Their relationship felt like it was a minor part of the story, and maybe that was the intention. I would have preferred it to be more prominent, but maybe that’s just me.
Where the book seemed to fall apart for me was with the overuse of Chuck – the bad guy. He’s an employee at the children’s center where Stevie is a patient and Chuck takes an immediate and irrational dislike to Jesse. And everyone at the center seems to just put up with him. One of the big things, for me, that set off alarms in my head, was that at the center, five reprimands were needed to fire someone. Say, what? These people are responsible for special needs children and they are giving that much leeway? Chuck had no business caring for children at all, much less kids with special needs. He was impatient, rude, and he verbally abused them and was way too rough with them physically. And once he does get fired, finally, he’s used several more times to move the plot along. And it became tedious.
After Chuck’s dismissal, he fabricates evidence suggesting that Stevie was being abused by Jesse and he conspires with Stevie’s father, who is running for a political office. And they decide to embark on a witch hunt and ruin Jesse, which, in turn, sets Stevie’s progress back months. Stevie’s father has had nothing to do with his son in the six years he has been at the center, but he makes it sound like he visits every week. None of that BS is ever publicly refuted. But, ok, he’s a politician running for office and they will often say whatever they think will get them the most votes – sympathy or otherwise. So, that was believable enough. But even when it was clear and obvious that he didn’t know the first thing about his son, he tried to play it off that Stevie was just mentally handicapped. Ugh.
Allegations of sexual abuse, as I’m sure you can imagine, are very serious. Even when they are not true, the accusation can thoroughly ruin a person’s reputation, as well as their life. So Jesse is devastated that he’s being taken away from Stevie. And Stevie is inconsolable. He wants his Bear, his nickname for Jesse, and he doesn’t understand why Bear is being taken away. It’s so obvious, to anyone observing Jesse and Stevie, that Stevie is not afraid of Jesse and, in fact, responds in a positive way to him. A child that is being abused just does not make that kind of a ruckus when his/her abuser is being removed. Stevie was angry, and not at Jesse. It really should have been easy to disprove any inappropriate behavior in this case. And, frankly, the story would have benefited from not drawing this out as much as it did.
There were several things about how the case was handled that I just could not believe were happening. The DA certainly didn’t have enough to get a conviction, but Jesse’s attorney, whom someone at the children’s center referred, encourages him to take a plea deal, where he pleads guilty, but won’t serve any jail time. Seriously? He really thinks the best option – for a case where the evidence is that shaky – is for someone to plead to a charge which will land them on the child sex offenders list for the rest of his life? Really? I might have fired my lawyer for trying to pull that. And that wasn’t the last time I wanted that lawyer fired. Jesse fights it and insists on a trial, thank FSM.
So it goes on, and they go to trial, which of course is resolved quickly, in Jesse’s favor. And the story should have wrapped it up soon after. But it didn’t. There was this complicated cat and mouse game between Jesse’s lawyer and Stevie’s father and Chuck, of course. And that is where the story completely lost me as a reader. The way the story finally resolved was too little, too late and left me with a very bad taste.
- Not the part where Jesse, Drew and Stevie live happily ever after, of course, but the part where there is evidence and admission of a felony on the part of Stevie’s father that never goes to the authorities. And I’m not talking about lying on the witness stand or to the constituents or anything like that, but a serious crime that resulted in injuries and seriously endangered the lives of children. And he got away with it!
I really wanted to enjoy this book, but unfortunately was an overall miss for me.