Monday, August 15, 2011

Sign Language by Amy Ackley

Sign Language

Author: Amy Ackley

Publisher: Viking

5 out of 5 stars

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 received Sign Language as an advanced reader’s copy from YA in Bloom.*  Thank you so much to Viking and everyone at the YA in Bloom event for providing me with a copy!  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!

*I received this novel from the YA in Bloom event.  I recieved Sign Language
as an advanced reader's copy in exchange for my honest review.  This book
comes out August 18, 2011.  Thank you so much to Viking and everyone at
the YA in Bloom event for providing me with a copy!

You can check out Amy Ackley's website at


  1. WOW. This book sounds breathtaking -- it's something I could definitely connect with!

    The prospect of a father having cancer hits a little too close to home for me (since my dad has been smoking since he was a teenager), but I think that it would make it that much easier to connect with Abby. You're totally right when you say that she has a right to be a little whiny if her father has cancer. Anyone would be.

    I love that she uses a Magic 8 ball! I used to have one too and I just loved it. :)

    Thanks so much for the awesome review, Tessa! I'm definitely going to be picking this book up!

  2. This book seems so touching! I can't wait to get it. Too bad the nearest bookstore to me is almost an hour away. :/

    Amazing review that caught my attention. :D

  3. Wow, this sounds like an amazing book! My son has cancer, so I'm always on the lookout for books that have characters who are dealing with the same things. This one would be more for me, though. :) Thanks for the awesome review! I'm adding it to my list!

  4. This sounds really heartfelt. This girl must go through a lot of changes and I'd love to read it. Thanks for sharing it with us!

  5. Mimi Valentine- I'm so glad you can connect with this one already! I really think that any teen who's going through a similar situation as Abby would be able to relate, and it would mean so much more to them. The magic 8 ball was a cute touch to the story as well. I can't wait to hear what you think of this one!

    Kuro- Aww, I'm sorry the nearest bookstore is so far away! I don't think I'd be able to survive with one so far from home :p Maybe you could order it online? I'm really glad this one sounds so interesting though, and hopefully you enjoy it! I'd love it if you let me know what you think of it if you get a chance to read it! Thanks so much for stopping by!

    Penelope Lolohea- It is an amazing book :D Hopefully you enjoy this one, and I'm glad that you can relate to Abby's situation. I can't wait to hear what you think of this one!

    BookGeek- That's a perfect word to describe this one! It definitely is heartfelt, and Abby's story was so touching.


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