Facing life’s challenges

whisperTITLE = WHISPER

AUTHOR = Chrissie Keighery

GENRE = IDENTITY, GROWING UP, RELATIONSHIPS

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9, 10

Demi Valentino is a likable young girl who worries about her place in the world and her place in her family. She is facing a situation that many teens face: starting a new school, trying to make new friends but fearful of losing old ones, falling in love, thinking about her career. But Demi has an extra hurdle to face, for two years ago she lost her hearing after a serious bout of meningitis. And this is why she has decided to start at a new school, away from her much loved childhood friends, and against her mother’s wishes. Demi believes that if she wants to achieve at school (to get her dream job) she needs to be able to understand what is going on around her, so in the opening chapter of this novel, she attends her first day at a school for the deaf.

Attendance at a deaf school is initially a challenge for Demi but it does introduce her to the broader deaf community, including the feisty, Stella. The two girls develop an uneasy friendship because Stella comes from a deaf family so she is a fierce advocate of the deaf community. Demi finds she has a more delicate balancing act to consider, given that her family and old friends come from the hearing world. However, their battles are always woven into the story in a realistic and engaging manner so that it does not become an issue driven story with a message to push. Character and plot drive the story along and make it an enjoyable reading experience.

For much of the novel Demi seems to be shrouded in self-doubt: can she still achieve her dream now that she is deaf? has she misjudged her friends and her step-sister? Can the cute boy really like her for herself, despite her deafness? Yet she also shows remarkable resilience as she faces up to the challenge that life has presented her with.  Gradually, she learns that she isn’t the only one with battles to face.

This is a compelling novel which will encourage teen readers to reassess their own values and understanding of life’s challenges. It is sure to appeal to girls, in particular.

Selected as a Notable book  for the  CBCA Book of the Year 2012 (Older Readers)

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

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I am a teacher-librarian in a government school. I love reading and talking about books ... to anyone who will listen!

One thought on “Facing life’s challenges”

  1. I read this book quickly, because the narrative flowed very naturally, and because I found the characters interesting and real. Demi’s situation as a recently deaf person gave a unique view of the deaf community from both the inside and the outside which seemed to mirror my reactions as a hearing person reading about both deaf and hearing people. It allowed me to share Demi’s mixed feelings on so many characters and incidents, far more effectively than if Demi had always been deaf. In the end though, the biggest challenge wasn’t being deaf, it was the challenge we all face of understanding ourselves and others. Communicating successfully with other people, no matter how you do it, is always tricky but important.

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