________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 34. . . .May 3, 2013


The Color of Silence.

Liane Shaw.
Toronto, ON: Second Story Press, 2013.
269 pp., trade pbk., $11.95.
ISBN 978-1-926920-93-1.

Grades 8-12 / Ages 13-17.

Review by Courtney Novotny.

*** /4



I remember the time we watched the movie version of The Wizard of Oz at the group home. Debbie liked Dorothy the best, but Scarecrow was my favorite character. His floppy arts and legs reminded me of myself. I imagined if I ever could get up out of my chair, I would probably walk more like him than like Dorothy. One arm going one way and the other crossing over it in the opposite direction. Legs jumping all over the place, even when all I want to do is walk forward sedately. Scarecrow thought that he didnít have a brain just because he wasnít the same as other people, but in the end he found out that he had one all along. The problem was that people just didnít recognize it. People couldnít see past his raggedy outsides. My raggedy outsides hide my brain as well. Even though some people treat me like I can think and feel, no one really understands how much of me there really is. Maybe someday Iíll find my own wizard who will show the world that I have a fully operating brain that was really inside of me all along. Maybe heíll give me a diploma to hang on my wall so people can read it, even if they canít read me.


Alex and Joanie are two 17-year-olds. The difference between them is the reason why they are silent. Joanie is severely disabled and has little control of her body and thus has never been able to communicate verbally. She has lived in group homes, attended modified classes in school, and now lives in the hospital due to health complications. Alex is using silence as a coping mechanism to deal with the death of her best friend, Cali, who died in a reckless car crash the night of a party. Alex was there and blames herself for Caliís death. Although she wasnít the driver, Alex is still sentenced to community service for being a car that was not her own or Caliís, and this is where Alex and Joanieís stories connect.

     For her community service, Alex is assigned to visit Joanie regularly in the hospital to help improve Joanieís quality of life and increase the human interaction she receives. Alex starts out remaining silent but soon becomes comfortable in Joanieís presence, and the two become friends, getting to know one another through their eyes and smiles. When a speech pathologist brings a new eye recognition machine to the hospital to try on Joanie, Alex takes pride in helping Joanie to communicate as much as she can to help give her a voice and, in turn, find her own again.

      Liane Shaw has written a story on a topic not often spoken or written about and succeeds in making a difficult topic approachable and relatable. At times heartbreaking and completely gripping, The Color of Silence paints a sympathetic picture of what it might be like to live with disabilities and adversity. Both characters are relatable and well expressed through their silent voices, as written in detailed first person accounts. Shaw dives into the mind of those who most cannot understand and truly educates the reader on what oneís life might be like living with disabilities and on the new hope that technology brings towards communicating through eye recognition. Not a typical young adult novel in character or in subject, but definitely worth a read.


Courtney Novotny is a Community Outreach Librarian at Calgary Public Library and a MLIS graduate of the School of Library, Archival, and Information Studies at UBC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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