My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Thank you, Blink, for giving me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Just because someone may have a “disability” doesn’t mean that someone needs to be pitied or ridiculed.
My dear papa was part of the deaf ministry at church, so whenever I see forthcoming or published books with hard-of-hearing characters, I immediately add them to my TBR shelf. Also, the author was right when she said that the deaf community needs more representation in YA literature. I’ve already enjoyed many books that discuss depression, anxiety disorder, and other mental health issues. However, #OwnVoices novels like this one are still rare.
The Silence Between Us is about a deaf girl named Maya. After moving to Colorado, she has a challenging time adjusting to her new life, particularly in her school full of hearing people. Most of Maya’s peers are unfamiliar with the deaf community. Some of them are even ableists, treating her with pity and blatant condescension. Consequently, Maya feels ostracized and begins to question her dream of becoming a doctor someday. When Beau, one of the popular boys at Engelmann High, shows an interest in her, Maya suspects that he only wants to earn brownie points. After all, why else would a hearing boy bother to learn ASL?
For someone who took pride in her condition, Maya could be so sensitive. I liked how she was brave enough to confront those who looked down on her. But sometimes, I thought that she was merely overreacting, especially when it came to Beau. His kindness seemed genuine, so he didn’t deserve to be reprimanded or humiliated in public. Looking back, the final conflict in the book could’ve been easily avoided; it was only a result of Maya’s penchant for overanalyzing things.
Moreover, Maya’s expectations of people, including her loved ones, were low to a fault. So when people did nice things for her, she was either surprised or apprehensive. It’s all right to be cautious around strangers, but friends or loved ones deserve more trust.
To be fair, Maya was a loving daughter and sibling. Her little brother, Connor, had cystic fibrosis. Thus, he had to use an oxygen tank in case his lungs became clogged. He also experienced bouts of weakness, which prevented him from maximizing his childhood. Wanting to ease Connor’s suffering, Maya resolved to be a CF therapist. And when their finances dwindled, Maya didn’t hesitate to look for a job. If anything, her sense of responsibility was remarkable.
Beau was my favorite character. I guess I was a bit biased because he was a fellow introvert and bookworm. I loved the scene where he left the homecoming party, found an insolated corner, and read a book. If I were in his shoes, I would’ve done the same thing. Parties are the bane of my existence, and I’d rather have other forms of socialization. I could also relate to Beau’s passion for academics. I didn’t join any club when I was in high school, but like Beau, I took my grades seriously and hoped to study in a prestigious university. In light of all these similarities, Beau was practically me in a fictional story.
As a fan of linguistics, I loved how the author constructed the Maya’s conversations with both deaf and hearing people. ASL is indeed extensive. However, gleaning from the book, it doesn’t require articles, conjunctions, and prepositions. Furthermore, I’m not sure if you can use it to conjugate verbs. So if you want to abide by the rules of grammar, you have to fingerspell the words. I’m usually a grammar Nazi, but thankfully, the caps-lock and hyphenated dialogues didn’t trigger me. Haha. On the contrary, I was very intrigued by the “simple complexity” of the language. ASL requires the basic forms of words for efficiency, but the signs can be hard to memorize.
Ultimately, The Silence Between Us is a profound and diverse novel. I recommend it because it’s a story that illustrates the tenacity of the deaf community. Losing one of your senses doesn’t mean that you don’t have a chance at success and happiness. With the right perspective and support network, “disabled” people can reach their dreams and make a difference in the world.