written by Chris Struyk-Brown
Orca Book Publishers, 2014
978-1-45980-475-3 (pb) $12.95
for Grades 7 and up
Fiction | Dystopia | Disabilities | Indentity | Belonging | Music
In a not-too-distant future, in a society that kills or abandons anyone with a physical disability, Whisper has found a loving family deep in the forest, hidden from view. When her cruel father forces her to become his house slave, her only solace is her music. Whisper has all but given up hope of ever feeling safe or loved when she is sent to Purgatory Palace, where other "rejects" gather. Could it be that home and love are closer than she thought?
In her debut novel, author Chris Struyk-Brown paints a chilling picture of a future society where usefulness is tied to physical appearance, and those who are different are treated as less than human. Born with a cleft palate, Whisper is one of these societal rejects, used to abandonment, loss and loneliness.
Whisper is a fascinating, multi-layered character. She identifies with the song of the violin--sad and lonely. It's her comfort, her escape, her joy and her hope--everything she feels is in the music she plays--and it plays a part in each step of her journey. Whisper is strong and resilient and, despite the terrible cruelties she endures, she always perseveres and remains hopeful. Her detailed observations of her world give readers a clear insight into her reality.
The natural world also plays an important role in this novel, and while an exact cause is never given for the deformities, there are suggestions that environmental pollutants are responsible.
Taking on themes of identity, belonging, class and gender, Whisper is a thoughtful and highly engaging young adult novel that will keep readers thinking and discussing long after reading.