Sunday, 29 July 2012

Sunday Spotlight: Book Review of Whisper by Chrissie Keighery

My new Sunday Spotlight feature (which actually bears a striking similarity to my old Saturday Spotlight feature) will showcase some of my favourite recent books reviewed for the superb Bookbag site.

Demi is starting a new school. It's a nervous time whenever this happens - but the reason she's moving is because an attack of meningitis 18 months ago left her profoundly deaf. She's learnt to sign, she's learnt how to deal with the problems that crop up every day - but will she ever learn to accept who she is now?

This is absolutely lovely. Given the subject matter, I wasn't sure whether it would be depressing but Chrissie Keighery has written a beautiful coming of age story for older teens which sees a fabulous narrator start to see that her deafness is part of her, but not the main thing that defines her. I loved the thoughtful contrast between Demi, who still has friends and family who aren't deaf, and schoolmate Stella, who constantly rails against the 'hearies' but is a really strong character who never lapses into caricature as she could have done in another author's hands. The changing relationship between Demi, her mother, and her older sister Felicity - who she secretly calls Flawless - is also very well-handled and deals with another issue not often found in teen fiction, while there's a strong supporting cast, particularly Demi's hearing friend Nadia. There are some absolutely gorgeous scenes, as well – particularly one in which Demi and her father watch SVU together and he takes notes on the bits the subtitles haven’t explained properly for her to read during commercial breaks to help her follow it.

It’s also very thought-provoking and the issues that deaf people have to deal with and the ways in which they do so are beautifully explained – in particular Keighery’s description of sign language brings it to life vividly, with some wonderful descriptions of the signs used. One minor criticism – one subplot, with Demi’s former interpreter Jules, seemed to peter out a tiny bit. Having said that, that’s just about the only problem I can think of with an otherwise superb book.

Definitely recommended reading here, I think all fans of teen contemporary novels will really enjoy this one.

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