Sign Language by Amy Ackley



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

Having a parent die at a young age can be really hard. Although it's quite different if it's sudden or if it's slow. In Sign Language Abby's father has been suffering for a long time. In the book we see bits and pieces of the real details, but enough to understand. What was heartbreaking is how Abby comes to terms with her fathers death. She's young, so she's given just enough info to let her know what's going on but not more than the family thinks she can handle. I appreciated the chapter in which they attend the funeral and she freaks out. I could feel her pain and her confusion and I think that she wasn't given more details more due to the family not wanting to acknowledge the truth more than what they thought she'd be able to handle.
It's really a coming of age story. Abby deals with her fathers sickness and death alongside her family. We get to see into each of the family members emotions and reactions to the loss. Each person deals with it in a different way, but Abby is young and her understanding of the loss is handled more as a learning process throughout the story.
Although the death and sickness of her father is not the only thing Abby has to deal with. There are decisions made in each of the family members lives to be able to adapt and move on. Abby's story continues to grow as she and her family deal with the loss, she must also still understand friendship and school, and boys.
Even though the story revolves around the loss in the family, there is not a huge focus on his sickness. We do get to see some parts of what Abby witnesses as her dad is sick, but as it's just barely viewed by Abby it's handled in the story with caution and just enough pieces to understand what is happening for the reader.
It was more of a coming of age story, with a girl who has to overcome several things and along the way learns a lot about life, family and relationships.

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