Tuesday, September 06, 2022

Hear Me

Cerra, Kerry O'Malley. Hear Me
September 6th 2022 by Lerner/Carolrhoda
E ARC provided by Netgalley.com

Rayne has been losing her hearing for a short while, and is struggling to keep her mother and father, both school teachers, from knowing how much worse it has gotten. It has even affected her ability to surf, which she very much enjoys, since ears affect balance. Rayne is in seventh grade, has her eye on the class presidency, and is trying to keep up in school although her hearing loss is making things difficult. Her mother wants her to have cochlear implants right away, but Rayne has done her research and knows that once she has these, the avenues to different ways of helping her hearing that may be developed in the future may be cut off. On top of that, she doesn't want people to know she has hearing problems, and the implants are very visible. Her best friend Jenika, brother Colby, and even long time friend and possible crush Theo are all very supportive, but they are no match for Rayne's insistent mother. After Rayne mishears a question at the student body president debate and answers oddly, and her parents schedule the cochclear implant procedure against her objections, Rayne knows she must do something. She's done her research, and thanks to the internet, is able to investigate options such as a boarding school a few hours away from her Florida home and clinical trials for which she hopes to qualify. She has a lot of trouble dealing with everything, so withdraws from her friends and occasionally skips school, which causes her parents to be more alarmed and move the implant surgery up. After she gets a disappointing response from her doctor and from a lawyer she contacts about medical emancipation, she decides to travel by bus to meet with a doctor who has denied her request to participate in a trial. When this also doesn't help, she ends up at the school for the deaf. Her brother, who is in college nearby, comes to see her, and her parents are called. Will Rayne be able to show them that the decisions about her health should be hers to make?
Strengths: Cerra, who wrote the fabulous Just a Drop of Water (2014) does a good job at presenting a realistic view of struggles with diminishing hearing while also having Rayne deal with the more ordinary problems of middle school. Especially effective is the way Rayne's hearing is represented-- words that she can't hear are displayed as ***, so the story really puts us inside her head. Her run for a top student government position, her friendship with Jenika, her budding relationship with Theo, and even her arguments with her parents all ground the story in occurrences to which all students can relate. She's a fantastic advocate for herself, but struggles with anxiety over appearances and what others will think of her almost as much as she struggles with not hearing. Her bus trip, while a bad idea to me as a grownup, is a bit of an empowering adventure. I especially enjoyed the fact that Jenika and Theo were able to tell Rayne that they didn't consider her hearing loss to be "weird" or "broken" as she did; it was just part of her. That's a great message for young readers to hear, and I'll definitely be purchasing this interesting and informative book as a way to give students an understanding into some of the challenges faced by people who are d/Deaf.
Weaknesses: I like the cover as a piece of art, it conveys the sense of separation Rayne feels from her family, gives a good clue to the setting, and even showcases Rayne's anxiety well. As a cover, however, I worry that it might not appeal to my readers. It's more of a 1980s style, and might require hand selling.
What I really think: I was enthralled with Beverly Butler's 1962 Light a Single Candle when I was in middle school. This was a fictionalized account of that author's vision loss at 14, and Cerra has a note detailing how she lost her hearing, starting at 16. There are very, very few books with d/Deaf characters or culture, so there is definitely a need for this well-done book, and having one written by someone with personal experience is great. Pair this with Uhlberg's The Sounds of Silence for a historical look at the treatment of deaf people in the mid 1900s, Kelly's Song for a Whale, or Miller's Miss Spitfire, since Helen Keller is mentioned several times, and students no longer know who she is. 
Hear Me is a great book for teachers to read. In my 20+ years in education, we've only had one Deaf student, who both signed and read lips, and she worked as a library helper for three years. We discussed how to deal with students who might not understand her difficulties in hearing her. This book gives a lot of good suggestions for communicating with someone with a hearing loss, as well as the important lesson that people are more than their disabilities. 


  1. I also loved Light a Single Candle which was in my elementary school library in the 60s. I didn't find the sequel until much later or probably would have read and reread that too.

    Helen Keller's Teacher was another favorite of mine. I liked it much better than The Story of My Life which was assigned reading when I was in 7th grade. Maybe because Annie Sullivan was from Massachusetts and Helen Keller went to Radcliffe, they are more prominent in Boston? But I will have to ask my 6th grade niece if she knows who HK is.

    This book sounds very good - I think it might be a good choice for my de Grummond book club.

  2. This books like it would be a great addition to any middle school library. Thanks for highlighting it.