Read My Lips (June 2008) by Teri Brown
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Ages: 14 and up
Grades: 9 and up
When sarcastic, skater chick Serena moves to a new school, she is faced with flying under the radar like she did at her old school or fitting in with the popular crowd. Serena is deaf and has a special talent for reading lips even across the school cafeteria. Serena notes that not all deaf people can do this and it is just a fluke that she can. When some of the girls in the über popular group find out about her skill, they feel that they have a new secret weapon to snoop out all the gossip in the school. Will Serena trade in her black hoodies for pink tees just to fit in? How will she avoid social suicide with Miller, hot guy and school rebel with whom she really has so much in common?
*********Read my interview with author Teri Brown below*************
SPW: Considering that your acknowledgements thank the Alexander Graham Bell Association and in the About the Author section mentions your deaf teenage niece, I am going to guess that she was part of your inspiration for including your Deaf Character Serena. Will you share a bit about the inspiration of Serena and the storyline about eavesdropping?
TB: The first rendition of Read My Lips starred a deaf girl and ghosts! My inspiration for the original idea came from my mother in law, who worked tirelessly for deaf children. My niece was part of the equation, but it was from talking to my mother in law about her work that really gave the seeds of inspiration. And my agent persuaded me to give up the ghost as it were and I am really glad she did!
SPW: You said that you had a launch party at the Washington School for the Deaf which I believe includes students who use sign language. I read a blog that described your party (http://classof2k8.blogspot.com/2008/06/day-5-real-world-launch.html) and was impressed. Can you describe your decision to launch your book there instead of at an oral school? And, will you share that experience and some of the "tough questions" that the students asked?
TB: I’m aware of the tensions about the oralism question and I wanted to stay neutral. While my mother in law was fairly pro oralism early on, the longer she worked with deaf children, the more she saw both sides. Because Serena was an oral deaf teen, I wanted to have my launch party at a signing school. And I must say the kids asked the tough questions, mainly, why wasn’t Serena a signing deaf girl. And I told them the truth—not knowing sign would make it very difficult for me to describe it accurately, and for the purposes of the plot line, having her sign didn’t make much sense because no one else at her school would be able to understand her.
I will be visiting an oral school and another signing deaf school in the fall.
SPW: On your blog, I saw the picture of your new tattoo. Can you describe how you made the decision to commemorate the moment? I always feel like reading adolescent fiction keeps me young. I guess writing it does too:)
TB: You know, I’ve always wanted to get a tattoo, but it had to be something monumental. What can be more monumental than having my dream of being a published author come true? And in case anyone was wondering… yes! It hurt!
SPW: What do you hope that readers will learn or take away from the book?
TB: When I wrote the book, I had two audiences in mind, the deaf community of teens and the hearing community of teens. For the deaf community, I wanted to give them a mainstream book that had a character they could relate to. And for the hearing community, I wanted to show them how little differences actually make—teens are teens, periods. It’s tough all over.
And for everyone, I would like them to realize that being who you are is important, but it’s okay to change and grow too.
Of course, that’s a lot to expect from one little book!
SPW: Can you tell us about your future plans as a YA novelist?
TB: I have two proposals in the works right now and hope to have some good news about my next novel, shortly. I would like to write in a couple of different genres of YA, but I really like writing for teens, so I can’t see myself switching to adult books any time soon.
SPW: Do you have any advice that you could offer young people who are reading your book for the first time?
TB: I think the people who enjoy Read My Lips the most are those who don’t read it with the expectation that it’s a deaf issues book. It’s a larger story that stars a deaf girl and that’s just the way I wanted it to be. It’s also a light, beachy type read, so don’t expect serious literature! Just have fun with it!
For more information about the author Teri Brown, visit her website.