Hormones, hearing and “Deafness 101” collide to form Schrocke’s offbeat novel.
When a beautiful girl ignores the catcalls of Mika’s horny friend, Claudio, and walks into traffic, Mika stops obsessing about his breakup with catty aspiring singer Sandra for a second. When he meets the girl at the Freak City cafe, he realizes that Leah is deaf. Undaunted, he begins learning sign language in hopes of a relationship, but the stress of negotiating the Deaf and hearing divide might send him running to Sandra. Boys particularly might relate to Mika’s alcohol-and-hormone–fueled insights, and his exasperated love for his little sister, Iris, lends a realistic touch of humor. Trivia buff Leah’s portrayal is less successful, mostly accomplished through the device that finds other characters reciting facts about deafness. Still, she’s agreeably feisty, and her frustration with her nonsigning family rings painfully true. Subplots, such as Mika’s father’s extreme disdain for signing and hints of an affair, dangle. Numerous clichés and awkward slang, perhaps a result of translation from German, frequently distract from the narrative, but insertions of apropos We Are Heroes lyrics and a performance by real-life deaf rapper Signmark enliven the proceedings.
Antony John’s Five Flavors of Dumb (2010) expresses the Deaf/hearing culture clash with more attitude, but this outing adequately captures the aches and dilemmas of new relationships. (Fiction. 14-18)