Sunday, January 8, 2012

Whisper by Chrissie Keighery

Demi is about to start at her new school which is not that unusual, but Demi's new school is not your typical high school - it is a college for the deaf.  Demi was part of the hearing world until she developed meningitis, and one of the lasting side effects was that she became profoundly deaf.  Nearly two years later she is making the leap to study in a school especially for the deaf, rather than struggling through a normal high school where she had to depend on an interpreter.  It is a huge change and an even bigger culture shock - especially when she meets Star, a teenager who has been deaf since birth and has grown up in a family where everyone is deaf.

Struggling to find a balance in her life, Demi tries to make the people around her understand who she is and what she wants.  Her mother hovers protectively in the background, trying to convince her that the only chance she has for a normal future is to keep talking out loud and to attend a "normal" high school.  Her perfect sister, Flawless, backs her mother up, trying to convince Demi to listen to reason and do what is best for her future.  At her new school Star is dismissive of "hearies" encouraging Demi to stop talking and live in her new world, convinced that everyone from the hearing world wants to control her and stop her from doing things.  Demi's father is the only one who really seems to relax and let Demi be herself. 

Demi has left behind her old friends and her old school, not necessarily by choice, but also because she feels isolated from her old friends because they forget so easily that she can no longer hear.  The hearing world is not always a friendly place, and Demi doesn't want to wear her deafness on her sleeve, letting the whole world know she is disabled.  Demi is on the cusp of two worlds, and she can either find a way to being her two worlds together, or she can be torn apart by the conflict she has no real way to avoid.

A co-worker recommended this book, and I was a little sceptical when I started reading it because it seemed as though it was going to be one of those books - a book that tells you to feel sorry for someone with a disability because they deserve our compassion.  Whisper was nothing like that, it is a compelling read that has you laughing, and at times crying, along with Demi as she moves forward into her new world, a unique world that has elements of her past hearing world, and elements of her new deaf world.  Demi is endearing and very real, a voice for a generation of young people facing challenges in their lives who can make choices for themselves and change their own destinies.  Demi was lovable and completely believable - this is one of the best books I have read for a long time and thoroughly recommend it.

If you like this book then try:
  • Thyla by Kate Gordon
  • See ya, Simon by David Hill
  • Read my lips by Teri Brown
  • Properties of water by Hannah Roberts McKinnon
  • Blindsided by Priscilla Cummings
  • Five flavours of dumb by Antony John
  • Read my lips by Jana Novotny Hunter

Reviewed by Brilla

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