Summary: The Silence Between Us
In The Silence Between Us, Maya who is Deaf, has to move across the country to Colorado just before senior year. As if that isn’t bad enough, she’s moving from a hearing-impaired school to a hearing school. Maya lost her hearing at age 13 after an illness, so she can speak — she just can’t hear.
At the new school, she has to deal with people always addressing her interpreter instead of her and other struggles that Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing persons have to cope with. On top of that, her mother, a single parent, is struggling financially, especially as her little brother has cystic fibrosis.
But Maya slowly begins to make friends; let people in. She befriends a nice girl named Nina, and begins to fall for a smart boy, Beau. Beau actually starts to learn ASL for Maya (even before they become friends). But Maya begins to have doubts about their relationship when Beau can’t understand why she’d prefer to remain Deaf when she can get a cochlear implant.
This is one of my favorite young adult novels this year, hands down. I learned SO MUCH about the Deaf community, and have actually been moved to start learning ASL. I have a few Deaf friends in my community, but haven’t bothered to learn sign because a few can lip-read and with others, we just both fumble along the way.
The author is also Hard of Hearing, so this is an Own Voices novel. Maya’s story opened my eyes to the challenges Deaf people face in a hearing world. For instance, Maya can’t communicate with doctors when she rushes her brother to the hospital in the middle of a crisis — and no interpreters are available. But it also showed me that Deaf people don’t need our pity. They only need what all other humans do — consideration and acknowledgement.
I listened to the audio and the excellent narration definitely enriched my experience of this book. For example, when Maya lip-reads, the narrator abruptly breaks up the sentences so we can only hear what Maya understands. And I could feel the second-hand frustration when people talked too fast and she couldn’t decipher their sentences. I also learned that ASL follows no grammar rules whatsoever, which for some reason makes it so appealing to me.
Finally, other themes such Maya’s brother’s CF, the vibrant Colorado setting, and the parental pressures Beau faces are also worth exploring. I left this story with an immense appreciation for interpreters.
Overall: The Silence Between Us
The Silence Between Us is a rousing young adult novel with a Deaf protagonist who never lets her disability set her back. It explores the challenges of a Deaf/hearing relationship and addresses the strain a sibling’s chronic illness can have on a family.
I wholeheartedly recommend this novel to everyone, but especially those wanting to learn more about the Deaf community and how to be respectful to people with a disability.
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More YA with Determined Heroines
- Truly Madly Royally by Debbie Rigaud
- The Undoing of Thistle Tate by Kate Detweiller
- Stealing Home by Becky Wallace
Have you read this book or anything by Alison Gervais? What are your favorite YA books about disability? Do you know sign language? How did you learn? I’d love to know!