What I Didn't Say
by Keary Taylor
Young adult romance. Jake is a seventeen year old high school senior living on Orcas Island. His life his pretty good, except for years he has never been able to tell Samantha, the girl he loves, how he feels about her. After drinking too much at a party, he tries to drive to her house to tell her, but instead crashes and sustains a neck injury that rips out his vocal chords and leaves him permanently mute.
This is an unusual disability, and a terrific story. Jake is a great character, and his disability is mostly handled realistically. Although he has some dark moments, he is not consumed with anger and bitterness. I loved that even though this is a romance, he is the narrator. I wish there were more romances narrated from the guy's point of view. Samantha is great too--she's not a perfect princess (hello, Crazy Beautiful), but a nuance, real girl. In fact, she has some serious problems of her own and most of the book revolves around Jake helping her. Even so, there are lots of great dev moments.
I also loved the setting. I have been to Orcas Island, and it is every bit as beautiful as in the book. The author does a great job creating a real sense of place, and adding details about life on the island.
So why only three and a half stars? Well, like many self-published books, there are a lot of spelling and grammar mistakes. In this case, not typos, but the kind of thing that doesn't show up in MS Word autocorrect: mistaken homophones, dangling modifiers, apostrophes used as plurals, even confusing I and me. I don't care if you're self-publishing, get it right!
But more significantly, I was more bothered by Jake's (and the author's) dismissive attitude towards American Sign Language. Jake communicates primarily by writing in notebooks, but he also learns ASL. However, he only makes a half-assed attempt to really learn it, and he's constantly saying how bad he is at it. Fair enough, it's a hard language to learn. But he also says several times that it feels impersonal and impractical. This dismissive attitude really bugged me, because ASL is wonderfully expressive, far more than scribbling notes. But from the descriptions, it's clear the author doesn't know how ASL works, and she never describes any of the signs.
Oh well, those are minor annoyances in what is otherwise a great book about a disability that only shows up rarely in fiction.
The view of ASL is very disappointing, as it's true how few mute characters there are in books. Probably partially because true aphonia (the medical term for lack of voice) is rare. It's much more common to have a limited vocal range or a very quiet voice than to have no voice at all. (Believe me: my next book features a mute character so I've done plenty of research!)ReplyDelete
ASL is such a beautiful and expressive language, and I really wish more authors would take the risk in expressing it in their fiction.
On that note, I know that Kim Fielding has a novella called "Speechless" about a guy with aphasia (which is a speech disorder caused by brain damage rather than damage to the vocal cords). I have not read it, but I have read her Enneck trilogy and she's a decent writer, even if I wish she'd expand on her ideas a bit more.