Silence by Deborah Lytton
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Shadow Mountain (March 3, 2015)
I’m going to start this a bit unconventionally
because I’ve been in that kind of place this week. It all began when a new
member of the book club that I’m in made the statement, “it must be horrifying
to not be able to hear.” This was completely off topic and not at all related
to deaf characters. In fact, this was part of a discussion about horror
fiction. I’m afraid that my reading
falls into the categories of Deaf characters and dead characters a bit too
often. Don’t think I didn’t roll my eyes at her remark. I pressed her a bit
because I just couldn’t let it go. Her response included words mostly
associated with loss. That’s just not where my mind goes when I consider deaf characters
or deaf people but it seems to for some.
Lytton’s novel Silence has been described as a book
about friendship and hope. It’s one of the most loving YA stories that I’ve
read and it very much has to do with perseverance and well, loss… or perhaps
more specifically, the actual coping of loss. It isn’t what you might think. Yes, the story
begins with Stella who has the most beautiful singing voice so that she
actually (SPOILER ALERT) lands the lead in her school performance. She even has
hopes of making it on Broadway. But then tragedy strikes (which is not hearing
loss although that is the result). There is an accident resulting in Stella being unable to hear. What Stella finds difficult and what I found
difficult to read about especially while having just had a Ménière's disease attack of vertigo,
was how much the character had to cope with her own vertigo. So when I explain
that Lytton’s book made me a little nauseous, please understand that this has
nothing to do with the plot of her story or the author’s writing style. She was
simply able to convey the reality of severe vertigo in just a few short scenes
such as when Stella attempts to lace her shoes but pauses because she’s dizzy.
Stella’s loss is that of the future she thought was going to be possible. Joseph Campbell writes, “We must be willing to let go
of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” Of
course if anyone is going to have read Joseph Campbell in this book, it is
Hayden is the guy with whom Stella has a crush. He is
an outcast because he stutters. Hayden’s own loss is what leads him to help
Stella cope with all of the changes she’s going through although honestly I
think these two would have found their way to each other even without tragedy.
As far as Stella’s deafness, I think Lytton is able
to show how an adolescent would cope. When I was 15 being diagnosed with Ménière's, my doctor told my family
and me that I would never ride roller coasters again because of the vertigo and
that I would most likely lose my hearing before I was 30. As a teen, I focused
only on the roller coaster because to me that was the real tragedy. Family
members especially our mothers (including Stella’s mother) focus more on the
medical side. They cry while attempting to cheer you up because they are
grieving the loss of the perceived futures of their children. Teens rely on
their friends such as Hayden and his 17-day challenges while Stella is waiting
for the processor for her cochlear implant. Lytton’s description of Stella
receiving her processor and “hearing” is quite fair too but I don’t want to
give away any more of the story than I have to.
I do feel that Stella is able to understand Hayden
through lip-reading a little too easily and quickly. When the story begins, she
has just met Hayden. They do not have a lifetime of knowing one another. And while she struggles understanding family
members and friends, Stella understands Hayden almost perfectly presumably because he
stutters and that slows down his speech. To be fair, there is a good amount of
communicating via text messaging. Other
than that, and other readers might either overlook this aspect or argue that I’m
wrong which is perfectly alright, I
think this was a pretty honest portrayal of a girl losing her hearing.
I enjoyed Stella and Hayden's alternating chapters so that readers can access each of their thoughts.
*****Below is my
interview with the author of Silence,
|The author on Hayden and Stella's beach.|
SP: What inspired you to include a deaf character
in your novel?
DL: I had this dream of a story where
the characters could listen without hearing and speak without words. I
wanted to tell a story about a girl who loses her hearing, and how becoming
deaf challenges her to find herself. Stella begins the book very much focused
on the way things sound. In fact, the first time she hears Hayden speak, she is
disappointed because his voice isn’t beautiful to her ears. She changes into a
much stronger and more complete person because she is deaf.
SP: What research did you do to make your character
DL: I began with research about head
injuries and resulting sensorineural hearing loss. I read a lot of articles and
interviewed a pediatrician and a pediatric nurse practitioner about my medical
questions. Specialists from the House Ear Clinic answered specific
questions from me about cochlear implants. I watched videos and read first-hand
accounts from people having their implants programmed to understand what that
experience would be like for Stella.
SP: What do you hope that readers will take away or
learn from Silence?
DL: My greatest wish is that readers
will find hope in the book. That they will relate to Stella and Hayden’s
journeys to overcome obstacles in their lives and that this will inspire
readers to seek their own voices.
SP: What advice do you have for young readers?
DL: Find your own voice in creativity.
Paint, draw, take photographs, write stories or poems, dance, just express
yourself. Your voice needs to be heard.
And keep reading!
SP: Anything you'd like to add...
DL: The most important lesson I have
learned in becoming a writer is to never give up. If you believe in yourself
and you keep going even when things seem impossible, you can accomplish
Thank you, Sharon for bringing books to readers and for
hosting me on your blog today.
For more information about the author including her fascinating background as an actor and singer (performing back up vocals for
Belinda Carlisle and Frank Sinatra!) and her other books, visit: http://www.deborahlytton.com
To purchase the book, click the link below.