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Amy Ackley

Author of Sign Language

1 Work 73 Members 5 Reviews 1 Favorited

Works by Amy Ackley

Sign Language (2011) 73 copies

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Sign Language is an affecting look at a young teen dealing with her father's death. Abby is remarkably normal, as is her family. She has an older brother, Josh, who tolerates his younger sister, and acts out in semi-destructive ways (drinking, partying) when his Dad dies. The mother is loving but struck inert by the sudden loss of her husband. Aunt Fran is well-meaning but overprotective. Finally, there is the father, Mr. North, a gifted English teacher who loves his family, has a great sense of humor, and faces death stoically. In addition to her father's illness and death (which is no surprise and happens midway through the book) Abby is struggling with romantic feelings towards class stud, Logan Pierce, and her longtime friend, Spence Harrison.

The father's physical/mental decline, the death, funeral and aftermath are well paced and, despite the 3rd person narrative, packs an emotional wallop. Best of all, the book lingers on this family for a year after the death and captures well the anger, sadness and denial of the main characters (who are refreshingly free of tics, quirks, and histrionics). The book is less sure-footed when it comes to the love stories; Abby's attraction for Pierce seems far-fetched and too cerebral, at least to this reader. Of course, she ends up with Spence but it takes her a while to figure this out :-)

This is a fine example of biblio-therapy and would serve well a young person dealing with grief.
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mjspear | 4 other reviews | Oct 17, 2012 |
I'm kicking myself because this book sat on my review list for far too long. I missed out on enjoying this story and knowing these characters for months. Maybe the subject matter sub-consciously deterred me. I recently lost my father to lung cancer and its various complications. I know what it's like to watch someone choke on death. To deteriorate to the point that they are unrecognizable as the person they once were. It's heart breaking. It's painful. And so is Amy Ackley's debut, Sign Language.

I found myself bawling halfway through, unable to control my tears. Ackley writes with such authenticity. I could feel Abby's emotions. Abby's grief was my grief. Abby's inability to accept her father’s death. Her anger at his passing. Her anger at her mother, at the world. Every emotion is detailed beautifully.

To complicate matters further, her changing relationship with her best friend Spence, leaves her confused and terrified. She wants to be with him, but she's not sure her father would have approved. And even if he would have, what if something happens to Spence? What if she somehow lost the one person who could make the pain go away? Abby's not sure she can withstand the heartache.

I have to say that I absolutely adored Spence. He's too sweet for words. He's always there for Abby, providing support, kindness, friendship, basically whatever she needs, unconditionally. And with lines like this: "I wanted to be with you today because, you know, I thought you might need someone. And if you needed someone, I wanted you to need me." How could I not love him?

I tore through this one like it was going to disappear if I quit reading, staying up almost until it was time to get up for work the next day. It's a sad story, and even though I cried (a lot), it was never depressing. It is as uplifting as it is tear jerking. This book hasn't gotten a lot of attention around the blogsphere, but it should. It's a lovely story filled with sadness and truth and hope. I would definitely recommend it to fans of contemporary YA.
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½
 
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Melanie_McCullough | 4 other reviews | Mar 9, 2012 |
Sign Language was an incredibly difficult read for me. I was sent an ARC and asked to review it, otherwise I probably never would have read it or requested it myself. The topic is Cancer, and since it has affected my family in many more ways than I can count on two hands, I knew going in that it was going to be tough for me to get through. And yes, there were tears. But surprisingly, I really enjoyed the story. And it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be to get through. Not easy for sure, but not impossible.

Watching your dad die from Cancer as a child must be one of the most difficult things a kid can go through. I cannot imagine what life must have been like for Abby and her family. Some of the situations in this book I was all too familiar with. I lost a grandmother to Cancer and I almost lost my grandfather as well, but it ended up being Dementia instead. I'm not trying to depress you, I just want anyone that chooses to read this book realize that it's a tough read when it hits so close to home.

It's also about the aftermath of Cancer and learning how to put your life back together. And that is probably the hardest thing of all. Realizing that the one you are closest to won't be around for anymore hugs or conversations. Not being able to call that person whenever you want to talk about life. It's the little things you miss the most. Remembering something small about them when you hear a song or watch a movie or smell something familiar. I thought the book covered all of those things rather well considering it's feelings and thoughts, not words, that generally help get you through those situations.

Criticisms? Just one really. I thought the ending was really abrupt. I can't say why and won't spoil it, but I will say this. It's not as if the story wasn't wrapped up in the end. All the questions were answered, but it was almost as if the writing style changed for the last few paragraphs. Other than that, it was a great read. A difficult read, but a great one. And I want to thank the author and the publisher for contacting me about reviewing it.
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GreatImaginations | 4 other reviews | Oct 27, 2011 |
Sign Language has nothing to do with the sign language you may be thinking of, trust me I was thinking of ASL when I read the title as well. This book is about a twelve-year-old girl who struggles with finding out her father has cancer.

I cried the most during this book than any other book I’ve ever read. I used to have a book in mind I would mention whenever someone mentioned crying while reading; this book has taken its place. The first-half of the book was gut-wrenching. I put the book down a few times to stop crying and to get my head back in the game. I cried less during the second-half, but I still enjoyed the last section of the book.

We get to read about Abby from the ages of 12-15. I talk about this often, but usually I avoid books that have character(s) this young. Something about the description pulled me into wanting to read this; I’m SO happy I did! We get to experience how she feels and how different she is through three years of her life. How someone can change and grow, but in many ways stay the same is shown in this book. Looking back at the book now, I think Abby goes through every stage of grief, so we get to see her emotions go haywire at times.

"He spoke to her. Not directly, mind you. Abby didn’t hear God’s voice; He communicated with her in writing on a three-dimensional pyramid afloat in deep blue liquid inside a black orb. He would answer her questions, but only those requiring a YES, NO, or MAYBE.

God spoke to Abby through her Magic Eight Ball."

We all remember Magic Eight Balls like the one on the cover, right? Abby isn’t a religious person, she only turns to God when something horrible happens and when she wants a sign, but she does speak to God a few times during the book by using her Magic Eight Ball. Her doing this made me smile and laugh a bit, but it also was sad that she turned to an inanimate object to answer questions and to make her feel better.

This book has taught me not to assume. I have children of my own and even though they are young, I need to remember that just because I know how something works doesn’t mean my children or anyone else around me does for that matter. You need to TALK and discuss with your children even though you yourself may be going through something difficult as well. I wish Abby’s mom would have been more vocal to her children in regards to their father. I do understand parents make mistakes and maybe her mom would have done things differently if she could.

I couldn’t find anything wrong with Sign Language. It’s a novel I think everyone should experience. Whether you’re young or old, even if you don’t particularly enjoy young adult fiction, I think you’ll enjoy this one!

P.S. I just noticed I wrote this very long review, my reviews are never this long, and I didn’t even mention the boy! I will say this, there is a boy that is there for Abby from the beginning and he is the SWEETEST thing ever!
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jacindahinten | 4 other reviews | Sep 28, 2011 |

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