Whisper by Chrissie Keighery

Publication Date: August 2011
Hardie Grant Egmont
Format: Paperback, 256 pages
RATING: 5 of 5 Stars
I’m always trying to figure out what’s really going on. Always having to fill in the gaps, but never getting all the details. It’s like trying to do a jigsaw when I don’t even know what the picture is, and I’m missing one of the vital middle pieces.
How do you know if your friends are talking about you behind your back or if a boy likes you? They could act innocent, but you’d know from the rumours. You’d hear the whispers. But what if you couldn’t hear those whispers anymore? What if everything you took for granted was gone? Being a teenager is hard enough.
But being a deaf teenager?

“It doesn’t matter if she’s deaf,” he says. “My aunty Demi can listen with her eyes, and whisper with her hands.”

Damn Australian writers and their heart-wrenching contemporary fiction. It never fails. It’s an automatic instant love syndrome but in this case, I’m the one falling in love and not the characters in the book. Not that I’m complaining, it’s just…I have a difficult time reviewing them because I sound like a broken record with each review (see AUSSOME shelf on Goodreads).  And this book was no exception.

Whisper is about a teen girl adjusting to being deaf. She hasn’t always been deaf; but a recent bout of meningitis plunged her to a silent world. Our words are most often misconstrued for no apparent reason than we’re sometimes unable to find the right things to say. Friendships can be ruined and family relationships can be strained just because we can’t get our points across. Being deaf affects a person’s speech capabilities, hence the more chances that you can be misunderstood. This is pretty much the dictates of Demi’s life. Her family’s pretty supportive for the most part but she found it hard to acclimate to her mother’s new suffocating worries.

This book was beautiful and thoughful in a simple way that it talked about the mundane things of life. But mundane could be relative to a person who’s lost her hearing. Things like:  Giving up her iPod because it’s become useless to someone like her; or the beauty of swimming under water because everybody else is deaf to some degree under there. It made me think about how I would cope. How painful it would be to never hear my kids’ laughters again or how I’d probably miss my husband’s jet-engine snores while he sleeps. It’s an unimaginable loss that’s hard to endure.

Within Demi’s story is a lesson about AUDISM. It’s discrimination against the deaf. It’s the horrible reality that I’m made aware of but not forcefully fed by the author. It also showed how it’s always possible, albeit a bit difficult at first to form relationships with those who can hear. For me, I found an incredible sweetness in the way Demi would always have to look at Ethan’s face and read his lips so she could get a grasp at what he was saying. There’s this bubble around them when they’re communicating; the need to be closer than most to understand each other better.

VERDICT: There’s a lot we could all learn from Demi; acceptance of our frailties, courage to face the world with the abilities we’re given and to constantly fight for what’s right and what we believe in. This book was poignant, funny and real with strong characters who’d burry a hole in your heart. This is such a lovely book with some pretty valuable lessons we – deaf and hears, alike – could use.

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