Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby; Starscape:
New York, 2007; $5.99
I can’t imagine what life would be like if everyday sounds, such as the voices of my friends and family, weren’t included. I’d need to read their lips or communicate in sign language with them, which would have to be tough. Joanne “Joey” Willis, the main character of Hurt Go Happy, faces this situation. She is almost completely deaf, but can speak. Making it even harder, her mother, who is ashamed of her deafness, does not let Joey use any sign language. The young teenager feels painfully lonesome, what with the constant teasing from peers and the fact that many individuals’ lips are impossible to read. One of these individuals is her own stepfather, whose facial hair covers his mouth. If Joey wishes to speak with him, her mother (or someone else whose lips are easy to read) needs to interpret.
I have felt a bit left out before because I practice the Jewish religion, which is fairly uncommon in my area. Many of my good friends follow the Christian religion, and they sometimes talk about Christmas, Easter, and other Christian holidays. I don’t know much about these special days, so I can’t exactly contribute to their conversations. Most of us have had our share of these feelings, which is why we can relate to Joey. She feels isolated and as if no one wants to be her friend. She feels as if a gigantic chunk of her life is missing.
That is, until she meets an elderly man named Charlie. He lives near Joey’s California home, and she comes across him accidentally. But their meeting is the beginning of something wonderful, something remarkable… Charlie introduces Joey to an interesting pet of his: a chimpanzee named Sukari! The most exotic pet that anyone I know has is an iguana! But still, there’s more. Sukari is unlike most of the chimpanzees often found in zoos. She can communicate with humans through American Sign Language! Charlie converses with her in the unique way of talking, and Joey is enchanted.
Charlie and Sukari become Joey’s true friends, but her mother disapproves of her seeing them. She doesn’t want them to influence Joey to study the unusual language. If she used it in front of others, her deafness would be apparent to them.
Has anyone ever tried to stop you from following your own path? I began dancing at the age of five, and it is now a very significant part of my life. If my parents had discouraged me from pursuing ballet, I would have felt quite troubled and confused, trying to decide whether to fight my way down my own path, or give in and change direction. Joey is stuck between these two options. As she begins to pick up several of the signs, she secretly selects her own path.
Charlie plays a crucial role in Joey’s life. He gives her the inspiration and spirit to continue down her road, not her mother’s road. Finally, after much convincing, her mother surrenders. The girl is overjoyed and incredibly grateful. She has won this war at last!
But soon, when tragedy strikes, there is another war to win. In the midst of mourning the loss of one dear friend, Joey is fretting about the life of the other.
Based on a true story, Hurt Go Happy is a brilliant novel with an intriguing plot and excellent character development. I would recommend it for both boys and girls ages nine and up.