Steffi doesn’t talk, but she has so much to say.
Rhys can’t hear, but he can listen.
Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life. The condition’s name has always felt ironic to her, because she certainly does not “select” not to speak. In fact, she would give anything to be able to speak as easily and often as everyone around her can. She suffers from crippling anxiety, and uncontrollably, in most situations simply can’t open her mouth to get out the words.
Steffi’s been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He’s deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she’s assigned to help him acclimate. To Rhys, it doesn’t matter that Steffi doesn’t talk. As they find ways to communicate, Steffi discovers that she does have a voice, and that she’s falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it. But as she starts to overcome a lifelong challenge, she’ll soon confront questions about the nature of her own identity and the very essence of what it is to know another person.
A book featuring a (selective) mute character and a deaf character? Sign me up! Neither one of these are represented much in fiction, so it’s refreshing to find an author that does it and does it well.
Steffi is a selective mute, which doesn’t mean that she chooses to be mute. It’s more that she’s able to talk in some situations and not able to in others. Combine that with anxiety and, yeah, she’s the weird mute girl at school. The only people she’s able to talk around are her family and her best friend, Tem. The first day of sixth form, she meets Rhys, the new deaf boy at her school. She’s introduced to him because she knows some BSL (British Sign Language) and shockingly to her, she hits it off with him. While it seems to her family that her world is getting smaller or that she’s hiding behind BSL, it might in fact be helping her to grow.
I’m not an expert on selective mutism, but anxiety I definitely get. To see a character going through it as well as treatment for it was enjoyable to read as I can relate to it. I liked that there was at least one therapy session included in a chapter, giving a little insight to how Steffi was getting help for her anxiety and mutism. The anxiety disorder didn’t seem over the top, but it wasn’t downplayed either, and that was great to see an author knowing her stuff about this. Not to say that some cases aren’t super severe, it just seems like that any time it’s shown in literature, authors feel the need to overdo it.
Rhys was an adorable character throughout the book and I thought that he, as a deaf character, was portrayed so well in this. There were times while reading that Steffi or someone else would do or say something and I was like “no, no, don’t do that… you did it.” and immediately felt Rhys’s frustration in it. Though I can understand how not being around someone who’s deaf normally can make you forget that, oh yeah, they can’t follow a fast-paced conversation. In any case though, he was such a cute contrast to Steffi that it made them fit perfectly together.
What I liked most about the book though was obviously Steffi’s working through her anxiety and mutism. Some might say it’s because she got a boyfriend, but it’s really because she found a person that makes her feel comfortable and never treated her different because of it. Granted, her best friend never did either, but that’s why Steffi has no problems talking to her, or even her family. But she does feel some pressure from her family (mostly her mother) about trying to overcome her anxiety and mutism. So Rhys is a breath of fresh air as he obviously doesn’t pressure her to talk outside of her comfort zone.
I would definitely recommend this novel to anyone that likes to read characters that go through/have these issues. I honestly felt it was well represented and I wish there were more books like this one.
Rating: 4/5 stars