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Review: Whisper by Chrissie Keighery

Review: Whisper by Chrissie Keighery

I’m always trying to figure out what’s really going on. Always having to fill in the gaps, but never getting all the details. It’s like trying to do a jigsaw when I don’t even know what the picture is, and I’m missing one of the vital middle pieces.

How do you know if your friends are talking about you behind your back or if a boy likes you? They could act innocent, but you’d know from the rumours. You’d hear the whispers. But what if you couldn’t hear those whispers anymore? What if everything you took for granted was gone? Being a teenager is hard enough.

But being a deaf teenager?

What a gorgeous book.

I knew I was going to like it because I love Chrissie’s other work and this certainly lived up to it.

Even surpassed, I might say.

It the book was lovely and beautiful and gave the sense of isolation of deafness so well.

There are so many things I want to say about this book. I had so many ideas as I was reading it and I wish I had written them down.

I really loved that Demi had hearing before she went deaf: it was reminder of what she lost. I can’t imagine loosing hearing. 

Randomly, I went to a primary school with a deaf facility. I knew it must have been important because deaf students came via taxi from all over Melbourne. After I graduated, they opened the facility up to hearing students so they could learn sign language, if they wanted. Both my sisters did (a quick Google search has shown me that now the school offers Auslan as a LOTE subject, which is awesome!). When I was in grade six, my prep buddy was deaf. Her name was Natasha and she made me the loveliest bookmark for Christmas that year.

So although I have a little knowledge, reading this book the research Chrissie did was evident and I found it so inspiring how an author could enter a world she doesn’t know about (okay, am taking a punt here and guessing Chrissie isn’t deaf).

I loved the development of Demi. Her maturity was subtle through-out the novel and was done wonderfully.

One word kept sticking out at me as I was reading: truth. I felt the entire novel was incredibly truthful. Everything from how she felt about her interpreter to being caught between her old world and her new world to her sister and mother to her life and her situation.

I loved her group of friends and thought it was incredibly representable of an average, general class of students.

I can also say genuinely that I learnt a lot. Don’t get me wrong – lessons weren’t shoved down your throat by any means – but by simply reading it I feel wiser (as silly as that sounds). I have a greater appreciation for the every day struggles (the scene where Demi is left alone at night particularly stuck out for me. I remember being scared staying home alone when I was younger too (and let’s face it, even now!) and I can hear if someone breaks in… imagine being not able to) and everything else she goes through. Even other simple things like turning away from the person – meaning they can no longer see your lips to lip-read.

Another one that stuck with me – and something I hate too – is when people say, “Oh don’t worry about it” if you’ve missed something. As Demi says, she wants to make her mind up if she should worry about it or not (or judge if it was a lame joke or not worth knowing etc). 

I was sort of disappointed to discover that it isn’t actually Demi on the front cover. I love the water-colour picture; it’s just beautiful.

It was so readable yet heartbreaking in places. I wanted to hug Demi for most of it, however it wasn’t out of pity. Just to let her know it would be alright.

You’ll love this novel if you love good literature told beautifully.

It’s out today.

For more information,
Chrissie Keighery’s website
Hardie Grant

11 thoughts on “Review: Whisper by Chrissie Keighery

    • This sounds a great book. What age group do you think it is suited for? Would it be suitable for boys, do you think?

      • Hi! It was a fantastic book.

        I think it’s fine for younger teens, say 13/14 upwards.

        Given the close nature of “girl” I’d be hesistant to give it to boys, but open boys or those who don’t mind about the gender thing then definitly!

  1. Pingback: Chrissie Kerighery’s ‘Whisper’ Launch | Website of Megan Burke

  2. Funny you should mention truth, as I read the book, and I have a cochlear implant myself. I must say I was incredibly disappointed with the author’s interpretation of a cochlear implant on pages 18-19. I go to a non-deaf, non-signing school and my language is well above my age. It’s things like this that slow the progress, and diminish how well cochlear implants do work!

    • Oh no! That’s so disappointing. From an outsider view I thought Chrissie did a stella job…

      • She has done a good job writing from ”the deaf community” point of view. Unfortunately, the view also includes that cochlear implants do not work, which I can definitely say is not true! Having said that, the book is beautifully written. I totally relate to the bubble concept used in the book.

  3. While this book is a lovely read in some ways it also made me very angry. I do understand that this is a very emotive issue, particularly for the deaf community but Cochlear Implants were very wrongly represented in this book! Yes there are some people that do not have great results from a Cochlear Implant but they are in the minority. Ironically someone who is deaf as a result of Meningitis would make an excellent candidate for a Cochlear Implant and would therefore be very unlikely to be dealing with the issues described in the book. However it was the inaccurate information that was the most annoying like the statement that “they actually take out your own natural cochlear (should be spelt cochlea) and replace it with the implant” – now I realise this is a fiction book but this is laughable – if it wasn’t so annoying and so wrong!!
    So unfortunately what could have been a great book is actually poorly researched and very one-sided!
    I have to say that I am so glad that my profoundly deaf daughter does not have to deal with the issues described in this book because she has a Cochlear Implant!

  4. It is very easy for successful Cochlear Implantees to comment on the inaccuracy of the book when they have known nothing but success.

    Often times, the unsuccessful implantees are forgotten and excluded from “success” statistics because they have their implants removed and are therefore not implantees anymore. More often than not – early learners at oral schools who do not succeed at language learning are often labelled as “Failed” and are moved on before they can impact on the school’s success rate. These young children arrive at other bilingual early intervention schools with significant language delay and learning problems due to the time wasted between implantation and inappropriate learning.

    Whilst the cochlea is not entirely removed – the electrode implanted does remove all natural hearing from the implant recipient and more often than not if there is an infection, meningitis (implantees are 30% more at risk than the general population at getting meningitis), necrosis, severe tinnitus and damage to the facial nerve these implantees arrive at a social support service hoping to rebuild themselves and their lives around the failed surgery.

    There are always two sides to a coin and if you are always justifying why you implanted in the first place, perhaps you are justifying it to yourself and not the Deaf community. Many of whom have implants and many who don’t. The one thing that unifies them is LANGUAGE.

  5. Pingback: Review: Shift by Em Bailey | Website of Megan Burke

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