Review Blog

Aug 30 2011

Whisper by Chrissie Keighery

cover image

Hardie Grant Egmont, 2011. ISBN 9781921759321
(Age 14 +) Highly recommended. Demi Valentino is facing the sort of situation that many teens face: starting at a new school, trying to make new friends, falling in love, thinking about her career. However, Demi has an extra challenge to face, for two years ago she lost her hearing after a serious bout of meningitis. And this is why she has decided to change schools, moving away from her much loved childhood friends, and against her mother's wishes. Demi believes that if she wants to achieve at school (and 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 nervously attends her first day at a school for the deaf.
Attendance at this school introduces Demi to the broader deaf community, and one of its fiercest advocates, Stella, a strong and determined fellow student. Stella's singular approach brings her in conflict with Demi, who 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. The character's journey is what drives this story and makes it an enjoyable reading experience.
Demi is a likable young girl, a credible mix of resilience and anxiety. She worries about her place in the world and her place in her family. Her mother is a strong character who has fought fiercely on her daughter's behalf and Demi must draw on her own strength to make decisions for herself. Demi also grows in understanding as the novel proceeds; she realises that her anxieties about her deafness have sometimes caused her to misjudge many people, including herself. 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. Highly recommended.
Deborah Marshall

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