Schachter’s (Anya’s Echoes, 2004) sophomore YA novel explores the changing relationship between a girl and her deaf brother.
Fourteen-year-old Shelly Marks calls her home a “war zone.” Ever since her older brother, Ian, started attending the Hawthorne School for the Deaf, he has become more and more distant from his family. But with rumors swirling that Hawthorne might close, Ian has been irritable, combative, and, frankly, a pain in the neck. All Shelly wants to do is hang out together like they used to. At least her best friend, Lisa, is there to support her—that is, when she’s not making a big, embarrassing deal about Shelly’s 15th birthday. After some honest discussions with her brother, Shelly and Ian start to become close again. However, when Shelly suspects that Ian and Lisa are getting a little too friendly, she fears she might lose a best friend and brother all at once, and she’s jealous of both of them. Suddenly, unimaginable tragedy strikes, rocking Shelly to her core. To deal with her loss and move on with her life, it takes Ian’s understanding and Shelly’s decision to stand up for something important to her. Throughout the story, Schachter notes the differences between spoken English and American Sign Language with insight and intelligence, explaining that they are two distinct languages. Her depiction sheds light on Deaf culture, especially life at Hawthorne as seen through Shelly’s eyes. Schachter also examines the challenges faced by families with some deaf and some hearing members. Readers may feel, however, that the characters and plot here, in comparison to those in other popular YA series, seem rather tame. For instance, when Shelly gives her brother the finger and says to herself, “I had never, ever cursed like that before, not out of my mouth or on my hands,” readers may have their doubts. Nevertheless, especially for the younger set, this is a solid primer for those interested in learning more about Deaf culture.
Simplistic at times but gently informative.