10 July 2012
Series: No, standalone
UK Publisher: Templar
UK Release date: July 2012
Genre: YA, contemporary
Kindly given by the publisher for an honest review
Fifteen-year-old Demi's world is shattered when she is left profoundly deaf by a sudden illness. Everything is different now, and Demi must learn to adapt to a new school, new friends and even learn a whole new language. Whisper is a coming-of-age tale, about discovering who you are and where you fit in life. About friendships and first love and, most of all, learning to love the person you are. (Goodreads)
Whisper was very focused on Demi’s personal journey which was really touching and moving, making me empathise with her new situation in life. She struggled to cope with losing her hearing, trying to stay in touch with her old friends, and deal with the insecurities of being deaf. Demi felt pulled in two different directions: trying to maintain a normal life with hearing friends and family, and trying to connect with her new deaf friends who can completely understand her. Being written in first person, it really put me in her shoes and made me feel the frustration she felt when she couldn’t ‘hear’ or lip-read someone or when she couldn’t quite keep up with fast signers.
Stellar is the cool girl at Demi's new deaf school; she is confident and very secure with her identity as a deaf person. She isn’t necessarily easy to sympathise with though because she has such strong views on how ‘hearies’ and deaf people should stick to their own communities and deaf shouldn't make any concessions for hearing people. Her role however is crucial as she gives an insight into a very different life to what I'm personally used to - she has grown up in a completely deaf family, never having to socialise or compromise with hearing people. It was a different type of discrimination to what I had expected, but her opinions were certainly thought provoking.
To contrast against Stellar, Demi’s mum firmly wanted her to maintain as many links with the hearing world as possible. She constantly nagged and tried to show how staying in her ‘normal; school would be better for Demi. These polar opposites played a big part in influencing and shaping Demi’s thoughts but also causing her to question herself, other people and her choices.
In terms of the other characters I loved them all - Keisha was so upbeat; the nephews Harry and Oscar were absolutely adorable; and her perfect sister was a surprise. Each had their own distinct personalities. I would have liked to have seen Ethan in more depth and seen a bit more of him and Demi getting to know each other. But I still liked him and really enjoyed the moments him and Demi shared together.
There were a few incidences and hints of past events played up at the start as big issues, but as we learnt what they were, they didn’t seem that big to me as a hearing person anyway. But I think it is important for the reader to appreciate that something that would seem small to us could be a huge thing for something who can’t hear. Situations can easily become out of control when hearing and non-hearing people aren’t able to communicate and understand each other. For Demi, whose deafness was fairly recent, it is these misunderstandings and conflicts that caused her so much anxiety and anger.
Whisper was really easy and enjoyable to read and I finished it really quickly. Demi's narrative was insightful and the story was a captivating and absolutely fascinating insight into a young girl's life without hearing. I think every school library should have this book and every teenager should read it.