August 15, 2019

Review: The Silence Between Us

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The Silence Between Us by Alison Gervais
Grade: B
An e-galley was provided by Blink via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Moving halfway across the country to Colorado right before senior year isn’t Maya’s idea of a good time. Leaving behind Pratt School for the Deaf where she’s been a student for years only to attend a hearing school is even worse. Maya has dreams of breaking into the medical field and is determined to get the grades and a college degree to match, and she’s never considered being Deaf a disability. But her teachers and classmates at Engelmann High don’t seem to share her optimism.

And then there’s Beau Watson, Engelmann’s student body president and overachiever. Maya suspects Beau’s got a hidden agenda when he starts learning ASL to converse with her, but she also can’t deny it’s nice to sign with someone amongst all the lip reading she has to do with her hearing teachers and classmates. Maya has always been told that Deaf/hearing relationships never work, and yet she can’t help but be drawn to Beau as they spend more and more time together.

But as much Maya and Beau genuinely start to feel for one another, there are unmistakable differences in their worlds. When Maya passes up a chance to receive a cochlear implant, Beau doesn’t understand why Maya wouldn’t want to hear again. Maya is hurt Beau would want her to be anything but who she is—she’s always been proud to be Deaf, something Beau won’t ever be able to understand. Maya has to figure out whether bridging that gap between the Deaf and hearing worlds will be worth it, or if staying true to herself matters more.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: As writers, readers, and publishing professionals continue to push for more diverse YA books, I always yearn for more stories with Deaf characters. I watched Switched at Birth for years, which really ignited my passion for sign language and Deaf culture. I appreciated that the author didn't try to "Anglicize" American Sign Language and how it's spoken. It was eye-opening, and although it took me a little to get used to, the way it was written felt second nature by the end of the book.
Maya is a character who has a lot of walls up, and it was interesting to see how little by little she let a few people in. Beau's plot line, though, was your typical "love interest doesn't want to follow his dad's dreams for him" fare. I appreciated how much effort he put into learning ASL, but beyond that, he wasn't my favorite character. And then the whole blow-up over his birthday present for Maya felt cliched and predictable and overdone.
I did like Maya's growing friendship with Nina! And Maya's family and learning about her struggle to find a job. So this wasn't a terrible book. I don't regret reading it. But it wasn't the best thing ever.

Content warnings: ableism

The Verdict: Good, but the ending was bleh.

Will I be adding this book to my library?: Hmm...probably not.

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