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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Whisper Compelling, But Floppy

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Although Whisper's cleft palate makes her an outcast in the outside world, the 15-year-old lives a peaceful, happy life in the woods with a group of other disfigured children.  Cared for by a kindly old man, the kids have all been abandoned by their parents—except for Whisper, who still receives yearly visits from her mother.  While Whisper longs to be able to live with her parents like a "normal" child, she knows it's not possible in a society that fears and abuses people who look like her.  She's content with her lot in life, even if she can't quite understand it.

Everything changes when Whisper's mother dies and the father she's never met takes Whisper away from her forest home.  He wants her to live with him—as his house slave.  When she fails to please the hateful man, she's sent to an even more horrifying place: the city.  Forced to beg on the mean streets in order to keep a roof over her head, Whisper fights just to stay alive.  Only one thing brings her comfort: the music she creates with the violin her mother gave her.  

As Whisper learns to survive in the harsh, unkind world, she finds glimmers of hope in the most surprising places.  While being shunned for her "ugliness," she discovers great truths about family, friendship and beauty.  Is it possible that she can find the happiness she desires even in such a cruel place?   

So, I've discovered that the most difficult books for me to describe are those that skimp on plot.  Things happen in these novels, yes, but because the various scenes aren't tightly and skillfully woven together, the whole story feels floppy.  Such is the case with Whisper, a debut novel by Chris Struyk-Bonn.  While the book offers an intriguing futuristic/dystopian setting as well as a very sympathetic heroine, the story drags along in an aimless, unfocused manner.  Why?  Because Whisper lacks a strong, clearly-defined story goal.  Without one, her tale feels too episodic and disjointed.  While this bugged me throughout the book, I did find the overall story fairly compelling.  I also appreciated the lessons it teaches about the true nature of beauty and accepting people for who they are instead of what they look like.  Still, I ended up liking this one, but not loving it.  

(Readalikes:  Reminded me of Wonder by R.J. Palacio)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:  

for language (no F-bombs), violence, mild sexual content, and references to sex/prostitution

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Whisper from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.  

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