It is comforting to know it is still possible to find YA novels on the shelf which don’t conform to the paranormal romance genre. YA books which are firmly set in our world still exist, and just because the world is recognisable, doesn’t mean there aren’t still elements foreign to the reader.
Most people don’t know what it’s like to be deaf, or to have hearing and then suddenly go deaf. Chrissie Keighery’s novel Whisper tells the story of Demi, who, at fourteen and a half, gets sick and, as a result, suddenly goes deaf. The novel takes place a couple of years later, when Demi decides to start attending the College for the Deaf instead of her old school. The reader becomes immersed in Demi’s journey because everything new and different about Demi’s silent world is new not only to the reader but to Demi too, allowing the reader the chance to learn as Demi does.
Keighery does a wonderful job of portraying the differences between a silent world and a world filled with noise, showing neither one as better or worse; both as simply different. Demi is a strong character, yet, at this point in her life, she is still bitter about what has happened to her. She is believable and sometimes frustrating, as she constantly defines herself by her inability to hear. Even so, those traits are what make Demi a relatable character. While her reason for choosing to attend the College for the Deaf is predominately due to an incident which occurred at her old school, it is there that she finally learns what it really means to be deaf.
I loved the book. I love the intimate insight the reader gets as they share Demi’s journey with her, and the fact that while it is a story about a deaf girl, it is also so much more than that. It is about being true to yourself, friendships and hardships, and realising that everyone has their challenges in life. It is about not letting all those challenges trump who you want to be. Challenges are part of life, and it is how people choose to handle them that make them who they are. Whisper really got me thinking, and it is one of those novels that will stay with you for a long time.
Published by Hardie Grant Egmont, 2011