Friday 26 January 2024

Book Review: “The Silence Between Us” by Alison Gervais

Rating: ★★★★★ out of 5!

Young Adult fiction is one of my favourite book genres because I like how it touches on many different life topics and challenges including, friends, family, relationships, education, careers, health and disability, social issues, political issues and more.

One of my favourite things about this book was how the author made the main character Deaf and I’ve never read any book before with a Deaf character let alone a main character.

I read “The Silence Between Us” as an audiobook though I felt it would have been better to have read this book as sometimes I struggled to follow the reading out of finger spellings especially with my dyslexia. Shorter words I could get like “name M-A-Y-A” but when longer names and words like ‘collapsed lung’ was spelled out I gave up trying to work out what I was listening to and backtracking over trying to work out what was being spelled out.

The book storyline is about Maya who became Deaf and her, her mother and younger brother who has cystic fibrosis move across the US because of her mother’s job. Maya isn’t able to join another Deaf School as there isn’t one close by so for the first time since becoming Deaf she has to go to a hearing school with the support of an ASL translator.

Maya is paired with a buddy, Nina, to help her acclimatise to her new school who she becomes friends with. She also becomes friends with Beau who learns ASL to communicate with Maya. Nina also picks up ASL too. I like how both Nina and Beau learn Maya’s language to communicate with her. This comes in helpful as Beau’s ASL is more advanced and one night Maya has to rush her brother to hospital and the virtual translation system is broken so Beau comes and translates.

I like how the author brings in aspects of the d/Deaf community into the book as after all the main character is Deaf. Some of the things the book touches upon are difficulties getting employment because of the employers responsibility to provide a translator, challenges in education including the lack of educational translators. In the book it also explores the differing opinions in the d/Deaf community as to whether d/Deafness is a disability or not and around the subject of cochlea implants.

As well the author writes about other hearing students attitudes towards a Deaf person. Such as at the beginning Beau asked Maya why she signed if she could speak orally. There was also an incident where Maya’s lab partner forgot she was Deaf and an incident happened and he said that he didn’t want Maya as his lab partner anymore because she was Deaf. There was also another incident were Maya lip read her being called a ‘token disabled chick’ when some students were talking about prom dates.

As someone with a disability I could relate in my own way to a lot of the things brought up in the book. Such as lack of access and accessibility and accommodation for our needs including the lack of funding or political barriers to us gaining access such as barriers in education and employment like in this book. Then there’s ableist attitudes and ignorance that again is another barrier and people not thinking about what they’re saying or involving us [disabled people] in conversations especially when it’s about things that directly affect us. Or people wanting to step into our world like how Nina and Beau stepped into Maya’s Deaf world.

I like how at the end of the book the author showed that d/Deaf people can succeed in a hearing world; it’s just a bit more challenging and there’s a few more obstacles to overcome.

One good thing about reading the book as an audiobook was there was an interview with the author at the end who did a Q&A and explained why she wrote the book and she explained how she was hard of hearing herself and wanted that representation in a book when she was younger. She explained about the character Maya and Beau, the two main characters and their different personalities and who she related more to as well as talking about her own experiences and challenges being hard of hearing.