Nothing Sung and Nothing Spoken by Nita Tyndall is a queer YA historical fiction novel—a genre that I had yet to come across, and knew I had to read as soon as it was released. I was immediately intrigued by its poetic title, as well as by the promise of a topic I wasn’t used to reading. Tyndall certainly delivered with this novel: it is well written, intricately plotted, and overall beautiful. Following strong female characters as they navigate not only personal relationships, but WWII in the heart of Germany, this was an interesting read that captured my attention from start to finish. It’s a perfect YA novel, dealing with teenagers struggling with very real issues that have been faced throughout history: identities, relationships, and emotions. It presents strong family dynamics, which strengthened its appeal, showcasing both supportive and unsupportive families, making the novel realistic and believable. Tyndall writes with beautiful imagery: poetry, jazz music, maps that the protagonist, Charlie, creates. These images and Tyndall’s descriptions of the setting makes the novel vivid, easily bringing words to life.
Despite its strengths, Nothing Sung and Nothing Spoken was slightly too short for my liking. Not that short novels aren’t appealing, but in this case, it didn’t help with the progression. It was at times too fast paced, leaving me feeling breathless as I struggled to keep up with the unfolding events. The short length left little time for character development, or even introduction. Throughout reading, I wondered how the characters had come to know each other, and felt that their personalities weren’t conveyed very strongly. I didn’t feel as though I knew them by the end of the novel. I’d have traded the short length for a slower, more drawn-out story. Really, I’d have liked more time in this setting Tyndall so beautifully crafted.
A captivating YA novel that covers WWII in Germany, with queer characters and relationships, Nothing Sung and Nothing Spoken is a great example of books we need more of. It’s perfect for fans of Malinda Lo’s Last Night at the Telegraph Club, and for readers of all ages.