August 1, 2012

Sign Language by Amy Ackley

Release Date: August 18, 2011
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Pages: 392
Series: n/a
Review Source: eBook for review from author

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
Twelve-year-old Abby North's first hint that something is really wrong with her dad is how long it's taking him to recover from what she thought was routine surgery. Soon, the thing she calls "It" has a real name: cancer. Before, her biggest concerns were her annoying brother, the crush unaware of her existence, and her changing feelings for her best friend, Spence, the boy across the street. Now, her mother cries in the shower, her father is exhausted, and nothing is normal anymore. Amy Ackley's impressive debut is wrenching, heartbreaking, and utterly true.

My Thoughts:
It took me quite a while to pick up this book, despite reading great reviews of it last year, simply because I knew it would be a tough read. And it was. The book is heartbreaking, and yet I’m glad I read it. Amy Ackley has written a tale that’s obviously very close to her own heart (she, like our main character Abby, also lost her father to cancer as a teenager), and it shows in the writing.

What I liked best about the book is how honest the emotions felt. So many books about dying and death delve into cliches, but ‘Sign Language’ never felt saccharine. There aren’t any platitudes here. There’s definitely some hope, and it shows how you can move on from loss, honouring your loved one by remembering the happy memories, but the book doesn’t present it as any easy linear process. There’s no right way to grieve for someone, and there’s no perfect timetable for trying to get back to “normal”, if such a state even exists.

This is definitely a middle grade novel, with Abby starting off the book at 12 years old, but by the end of the book she has aged a few years. I liked how this long time period let the author show us all the different stages of what Abby was going through. Abby was a sweet character who you definitely felt for, and I also especially adored her friend Spence.

If I could change one thing about this book I would have it be written in first person. I know third person seems to be the preferred perspective in middle grade books, but I think we could have gotten even more involved in Abby as a character if we could have read her thoughts and feelings directly from her.

As I’ve mentioned, ‘Sign Language’ is a very hard hitting book. I think for anyone, but especially for those who have experienced cancer on a personal level, there are parts that are very hard to read. I feel like that’s important, though. I love how the author didn’t hide details or emotions to make the book easier to read. Amy Ackley has written a great book on a very important topic, and I can see why people liked it so much. I appreciate books that can make me feel the emotions of a situation, and Amy Ackley definitely succeeded in this regard.

The Cover:
I like it because it actually has a lot of meaning for the story, but without knowing that detail I don't feel like the cover or the title really do much to convey what the book is about.


Find Sign Language by Amy Ackley on Goodreads, Book Depository, & Amazon.


  1. Oh, wow. This one sounds so hard to read, I'm afraid I'd cry my way through it! Totally understand why it took you so long to pick it up, even if it was worth it in the end.

    1. I definitely cried real tears in a couple of parts, which is a rarity for me.

  2. I know exactly what you mean. It takes me a while to pick up a book that I know will be a tough or heartbreaking read.

    I'm glad you enjoyed this one though.

    Great review!

  3. This sounds really, really good. Definitely adding it to my TBR list!


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