Sign Language - Amy Ackley

With a few rare exceptions (i.e. Saving Francesca, Saving June or also If I Stay) books about grief and me are usually not compatible. I am a big worrier, I have a lot of vivid imagination - the combination of both tends to keep me awake sometimes - and I primarily read for fun. It is nice when a book gives me insight or understanding as a bonus, but when I pick up a book I want to enjoy myself.

Therefore I think it was a very brave step of the author to offer me a review copy of her middle grade novel "Sign Language", which deals with a young girl losing her father to kidney cancer and having her family fall apart around her. The author's confident hint at my love for Saving Francesca kindled my curiosity. I hesitated, agreed, plunged in and read the first 30 pages. Yet rather quickly I found out that there will no love between me and Abby and will – true to my usual reading habits – call it quits even before the dad had his first relapse.

I have thought a bit about Abby today. My first impression of her was filled with utter disbelief. How can she at the age of twelve fail to grasp that her father is terminally ill? When I was ten and a young man in our neighborhood went through chemo, I pestered my parents about the reasons and consequences and his chance at survival. And when I passed him on the street I almost expected him to spontaneously pass away. In Abby’s case her mom volunteers only superficial, harmless sounding information (in hindsight I think maybe to trick herself into an optimistic mode) - a choice I would have expected from the mother of a six or seven year old. As a reaction or non-reaction Abby files her father‘s surgery under the same heading as her friend’s tonsillectomy and does not ask for clarification. After pondering all morning on and off about it I have come to the conclusion that maybe Abby’s behavior is more common than mine had been – a kind of subconcious suppression of a possible, unwelcome future instead of painting the bleakest picture possible in her head. But I simply cannot relate to her in spite of that. Equally normal may be her efforts to get on the radar oft he most popular boy at her school and to let out her inner bitch toward her devoted best male friend in the process, but they certainly did not make me love her more.
A lot of the other reviewers have stressed the real feel oft he story and of the heroine’s development. And I truely believe they might be right. It is just that I should not read books which are wrong for me - and me only - and then complain about them. That is the reason why I make an exception and let this book remain unrated on my unfinished-shelf.

Anyway, thank you, Amy Ackley, for being courageous enough to tackle such a diffcult and painful subject and for handing over a copy to me in spite of my low average rating and my tendency to judge rather harshly.