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Sign Language

by Amy Ackley

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715366,639 (3.9)None
Teenaged Abby must deal with her feelings about her father's cancer and its aftermath while simultaneously navigating the difficult problems of growing up.

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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. ( )
  mjspear | 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. ( )
  Melanie_McCullough | 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. ( )
  GreatImaginations | 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! ( )
  jacindahinten | Sep 28, 2011 |
Have you ever had that feeling where you know that something’s wrong? That there’s something out of place? You might not be able to put a finger on what exactly, but you have a creeping feeling that something is terribly wrong. Instead of investigating further, you choose to ignore it. Act like whatever it is isn’t there. Maybe then it will go away, stop bothering you, and you’ll forget that there was anything there in the first place. What if… it doesn’t disappear? It stays right where it is, slowly growing and becoming more and more horrible with all of the apathy you have shown it. But no one bothers to tell you what’s wrong, and you choose to look the other way. Until it becomes so unbearable that it twists your whole life out of control. Suddenly, you wonder how you could have ever missed it.

This is exactly what young, twelve-year-old Abby North goes through. She had no idea that anything was wrong. How could she, when the problems that claimed her attention were the fact that her long-time crush didn’t know she existed, her older brother was unbearable, and she had no idea how to cope with growing up and the changes that come with it. If she could get through these, then Abby would be able to conquer anything. Well… maybe anything except cancer, that is.

Abby had been absolutely oblivious to the fact that her father was sick with cancer. All she knew was that he wasn’t feeling good, but the visits to the doctor were going to make him all better. Or so everyone thought. It turns out that the doctors couldn’t do anything for Abby’s father. His condition is suddenly spiraling downward, taking young Abby and her entire family with him.

Abby’s father is trying so hard to overcome his illness, but is he strong enough? Now Abby’s biggest problems are how she keeps what her family is going through a secret from their neighbors and friends and how will her dying father ever live? Can Abby cope with the fact that her father is dying, and there is absolutely nothing she can do about it? How much time does her father have left? Amy Ackley reveals all in her heart-wrenching story of one daughter’s journey to learn to live on after there is nothing left in, Sign Language!

Sign Language is a spectacular book that tells of one girl’s story that I’m sure many have had to go through as well. Filled with raw emotion, this book was constantly bringing tears to my eyes as I read Abby’s story. Amy Ackley’s writing is both beautiful and haunting, and it will stick in your mind for days after, keeping you up at night. I recommend this book for young teens all the way to adults, as they will be able to relate to the emotions that force this little girl to grow up much too soon.

Sign Language starts when Abby is twelve years old. Over the course of the book, we follow Abby as she grows up from a young twelve-year-old to a mature fifteen-year-old. Throughout the book Abby grows up into a full-on teenager, but over the course of those four years one thing stays the same: she loves her dad. Each chapter goes by in months. For example one chapter might be September, another might be December to March, and another might say June, Continued. It was interesting to see how time went on and the ways in which Abby slowly grew up, but never really forgot her father.

It was very easy to relate to Abby and all that she went through. I couldn’t help but feel horrified for what this young girl had to endure and how no matter what, she couldn’t let go of her dad. Even when Abby would go about her daily life, there would be instances where a memory of her father would pop into her mind, or something would remind her of him. Sign Language really shows just how strong the bonds of family can be, and that they will always be there to catch you when you fall.

Amy Ackley’s writing is stunning. She knows exactly when to crack a joke, and when not to. Her writing evoked all kinds of emotions from me, and she never failed to coax a laugh or a sob out of me. There are moments where Ackley’s writing is haunting, and certain phrases will resound in your head, trapped in your mind as they bounce off the walls. Parts of Sign Language will stick with any reader, and I cannot wait to see what endeavors Ackley takes on next.

There was an interesting use of a certain Magic 8 Ball that was significant to Abby over the years. It was there for her when she needed to ask about her crush, a seemingly important question at the time, and when she felt she needed a simple answer that would somehow help her make sense of her chaotic life. Abby’s Magic 8 Ball was a connection to God from her point of view, and it was very interesting to see how this object could always provide an answer that had the ability to either make everything better, or worse.

I think that some readers might find Abby to be whiny or ungrateful at times, but I felt that this wasn’t the case. All of the characters in Sign Language had distinct personalities that developed even more over the course of the book. The interactions between all of the characters formed strong relationships between them that made their conversations and their actions toward one another all the more meaningful. One word spoke volumes, and that was all that was really needed at times.

Sign Language is an intense book that follows one girl’s journey to come to terms with the fact that she will always be her father’s daughter, no matter what happens. Filled with emotion, loss, and hope, Sign Language is a debut that you will not want to miss out on. Join Abby, as she grows up to learn the strength it takes to move on, and that her loved ones will always be there for her in, Sign Language!

-This is T.B. with Another Book Back on the Shelf…
Until Next Time, Keep Reading! ( )
1 vote Tessa-ftbotbblog | Sep 9, 2011 |
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"Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but - I hope - into a better shape." -Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
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The first thing Abby remembered about It was the scar.
The Earth never stops spinning, no matter how fast you run in the opposite direction.
I knew my dad was going to pass away. I didn't know he was going to be dead.
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Teenaged Abby must deal with her feelings about her father's cancer and its aftermath while simultaneously navigating the difficult problems of growing up.

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