Thirteen year old Joanne "Joey" Willis has been deaf since the age of six. Her mother Ruth wants her to function in the hearing world by reading lips and adapting to school life with special sound monitors, but despite Ruth's efforts, Joey struggles to fit in and feels isolated from her classmates as well as her family.I must admit, the cover first drew me to this book. I love chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and apes and monkeys of all sorts. But the title and book description took it from an eye-catcher to a must purchase. I took a sign language class in college; the syntax of the title reminded me of ASL structure, and I was thrilled to know that the book also dealt with deaf culture, a subject that I learned a lot about in school but rarely encounter in YA novels. I actually ended up reading this one as a read aloud with my husband (who shares my fondness for Great Apes) but neither of us was expecting the powerful, emotional, and amazing story we discovered. I can't say enough good things about this book - though perhaps I should warn that it may jerk out some tears - so I will just say, emphatically, if you have not already done so: Read this book! Blog about this book! Tell others about this wonderful book!
Things change when Joey meets Dr. Charles Mansell (Charlie) and his baby chimpanzee Sukari who both speak American Sign Language. Charlie begins to teach Joey ASL, opening up a whole new world of communication for her - against her mother's wishes. Sukari and Joey form a unique bond but when Charlie's situation changes, it is up to Joey to speak up for Sukari and protect the life of her new found friend.
Hurt Go Happy is a captivating and believable novel, with details based on true events. The characters are richly drawn and ready to pull readers in from the very first chapter. Ginny Rorby expertly describes problems involving the culture clash between deaf and hearing people and also weaves several other serious issues into her story, including: animal rights, teen friendships, fitting in at school, family conflicts, homelessness, and abuse. Highly emotional and overwhelmingly powerful, Hurt Go Happy is an amazingly well written book.
(If you're one of few that's already encountered Rorby's great work, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it too!)