Chris Struyk-Bonn’s novel Whisper speaks loudly about many issues. It explores treatment of disabled children in a dystopian world where birth defects are growing in numbers but not in acceptance. The children are defined by their deformities and exploited as slave labour. Prejudice, abandonment, neglect, pollution, child prostitution, and unethical farming practices are all subjects explored.
Whisper’s hardships and adventures comprise a compelling plot, original characters, and thoughtful reflection. The description of her feelings towards her music, and it’s impact on others is symbolic of how art can help people communicate what they have difficulty putting into words. The value of art is also seen in Jeremia’s sculptures that are treasured by everyone.
Identity is a struggle throughout the novel. Whisper does not feel she belongs in any of the many places she lives. She is too ugly, too talented, too strange, too successful, too wild, too civilized…. The difficulty of finding the balance is something I think will go over well with teens who often are at a stage of figuring out who they are/want to be.
The pacing was a bit uneven. It lagged in a few places that could have been edited. However, the novel as a whole is successful in that it was entertaining but makes you think about the real world as well as the imaginary one it creates.
I think the most powerful and important part of this novel is Whisper’s refusal to hide who she is. She accepts herself and embraces her difference without allowing them to define her.