CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 21. . . .January 31, 2014
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2014.
339 pp., pbk., pdf & epub, $12.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0475-3 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0476-0 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-0477-7 (epub).
Grades 6-9 / Ages 11-14.
Review by Tara Stieglitz.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
I closed my eyes, and all around me was the music. I forgot the rest--bugs in the bed, a lost sister named Rosa, the shocked stares of people around me, the men who’d stolen my money. When I played the violin, I was transported to a different world, a world of sweet smells, tolerance and blue dragonflies in golden fields.
Whisper lives in a dystopic and polluted world where birth defects have become increasingly common, but those who have them are shunned and feared. Whisper is one such child who suffers from a birth defect. Despite this, she has an idyllic childhood growing up in a forest camp with other children who have been shunned and abandoned by their families. This ends when Whisper’s mother dies and her father, uncle and brothers come to retrieve her so that she can work as a slave in their home. Eventually, Whisper is sent to the city to work as either a beggar or a prostitute, whichever will make more money for her to send back home. Through this abuse and hardship, the only thing that keeps Whisper going is her violin and her skill and love at playing it.
The novel is at times very dark; characters experience both emotional and physical abuse, but the story overall has a tone of hopefulness and Whisper’s independence and resourcefulness ensure that she is never the object of pity. Whisper is a well-written novel with a compelling and likable cast of characters. The setting of the novel is never fully defined, but it has a modern post-apocalyptic feel to it. While many elements of the novel, such as the theme of environmental degradation and its impact on human health, are not original, the author’s take on these themes and her focus on characters with disabilities feels fresh.
Whisper is an engrossing read and is recommended for school and public libraries.
Tara Stieglitz is a librarian at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton, AB.
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