Monday, August 6, 2012

Review: Hurt Go Happy

Hurt Go Happy
By Ginny Rorby, read by Emily Bauer
Published 2011 by Blackstone Audiobooks

Joey Willis is used to being left out - deaf since age 6, she's never been allowed to learn sign language and must rely on reading lips to keep up with conversations. When she stumbles upon Dr. Charles Mansell and is introduced to his signing baby chimpanzee, Sukari, Joey begins to understand that things could be different for her, if she learns to find her true voice.

This book caught my eye a few years ago - the cover and title are sure to catch many people's eyes (though there is something slightly off-putting about the illustration on the cover; maybe her hair is just TOO red). This was before I knew it won the Schneider Family Book Award (I'm always interested in seeing how young people's literature portrays people with disabilities). I downloaded the audiobook on a whim and listened while I drove. I have mixed feeling about this book. I really wanted to like it and, for the most part, I did. Joey is a very realistic character with a voice that it hard to ignore in a situation that is frustratingly realistic and heartbreaking. She undergoes a beautiful transformation throughout the course of the novel as she begins to realize that she has opinions of her own and maybe she needs to work harder on expressing them. Joey's family is also full of believable characters who make you feel much like real people do. And the story is wonderful as well - the impact that a stranger and Sukari have on Joey's life is portrayed nicely. For me, the drawbacks of this book are few: it is dense. Rorby is tackling a number of difficult and complex issues in the course of one 300-page novel (is it really only 300 pages?!) and it definitely feels like it through some parts. The book covers quite a significant portion of time and I almost wondered if it needed to be drawn-out so much. I'm not opposed to single titles; in fact, I often crave more of them. But with the depth and breadth of this story, I wondered if, perhaps, it might have been more easily digested in two separate parts.

Overall, though, this is an incredibly important and well-done book, tackling some difficult and complicated issues. I recommend this highly to anyone looking for a great realistic read.

Note on the format: I listened to the audiobook, which I enjoyed. However, Bauer's voice didn't strike me as perfectly fitting for Joey's character. She has a bubbly sort of voice and it just didn't feel like the best fit to me. Additionally, I had listened not too long before to another audiobook narrated by Bauer, Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen, and I felt her voice was much better suited to that title.

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