Friday, September 23, 2011

Sign Language

Sign Language by Amy Ackley (NY: Viking, 2011).

Twelve-year-old Abby's dad is sick and getting sicker.  First he has his kidney removed, then he has to start treatments.  Abby thinks he'll get better, but then there are more treatments and he's sicker and tired all the time, and he has to quit his job, but she still thinks he'll get better.  No one really tells her that it's cancer, and that it's spreading. And terminal.  Or maybe her mom did tell her but she didn't believe it.  She wants to think about normal problems, like how her brother ignores her, how she wishes Logan Pierce would notice her, how much fun she and her best friend Spence can have when he's not working. Even when she faces the reality of her dad's imminent death and the death itself, Abby just wants to hide from everyone. If only God or her eight ball could give her the answers she needs.

Abby's denial is difficult to understand at first, but it's certainly realistic.  What kid wouldn't just deny the possibility of a parent's death rather than face it head on?  Abby's desire to keep what's happening at home a secret from everyone at school is likewise realistic. Ackley does a little too much telling and not enough showing at first, but once the story gets going, it starts to flow a lot better.  Abby is an endearing character and her experience is truly heartbreaking.  Her mother and brother, and especially her friend Spence, are well drawn.  This would be an excellent book to recommend to a child who is facing similar issues at home or is trying to understand what a friend is going through.  Recommended for ages 12 & up.


Fairday Morrow said...

Wow! This sounds like a powerful book. I will let my co-author know about it- she is a 5th grade teacher. It could be a great book for students in a similar situtation to read. I love the idea of the 8 ball- I always love asking for advice from one!


Mary said...

Jess--I've been thinking about editing this review & raising the recommended age to 12 & up since Abby does start high school during the course of the novel and there are some mild sexual situations. But I know a lot of tweens are reading Twilight, so it's hard to set ages sometimes. I'll check around. Thanks for your comment!