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Of Sound Mind


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About the Author

Jean Ferris is the author of many novels for young people, including Bad, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. She lives in Coronado, California.


Gr 8 Up-Theo, a high school senior, loves his family but resents his ever-increasing burden of responsibility. As the only hearing person among them, he is pressed into the role of interpreter for his deaf parents and brother. He must rush home from school to make phone calls for his mother or to accompany his father to the doctor's office and translate embarrassing personal information. His spoiled, petulant mother is an artist who believes "hearies" can't be trusted-a troubling concept for Theo, who wonders if she includes him in that category. When his father has a stroke, she falls apart and the teen's plans for college are threatened. He's also wrapped up in a new romance with Ivy, who speaks both of his languages because her father is deaf. Theo's dilemma is poignantly drawn, but the end of the story will prove unsatisfying to many readers. Theo's problems are too easily resolved by the appearance of a quirky elderly couple who learn sign language almost overnight. While the protagonist does come to understand his mother's fears and gains insight into her personality, he never really confronts her. Even the eventual death of his father lacks strong emotional impact. However, for those teens with a keen interest, this is a fascinating window into the deaf culture and the intricacies of sign language.-Miranda Doyle, San Francisco Public Library Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

In this emotionally taut novel Ferris (Bad; Eight Seconds) chronicles the conflicts of high school senior Theo, caught between the hearing and deaf worlds. Theo, who can hear and who knows sign language, often finds himself in a burdensome and exhausting position in a family in which everyone else is deaf. For example, at age 11 he negotiated the purchase of his parents' house when he "didn't know what a lot of terms he had to use even meant, much less how to sign them to his parents." Theo forms a romantic relationship with a new girl, Ivy, who also signs because she has a deaf father, and his own stoic, peacemaking father suffers a stroke. These two events motivate Theo to assert himself against his domineering mother, Parma. Ferris effectively establishes the manners and mores of the deaf community and American Sign Language, using examples such as Parma's rudeness when she clasps her youngest son's hands to shut him up, and describing the signers' habit of watching facial and body language intently and their suspicions about "hearies." An eclectic and appealing cast of characters, including the bickering retirees Harry and Hazel, propel the drama. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

"Both a thought-provoking study of just when being deaf matters and when it does not, and an unusually rich coming-of-age story that explores universal issues of family responsibility, emotional maturation, love, and loss." --Starred, Booklist"A moving exploration of the extraordinary demands a disability places on a family as well as the effects of an exceptionally strong personality on a household." --The Horn Book"Ferris has written an absorbing novel with a strong, endearing protagonist . . . This fine novel explores a world about which most people know little." --VOYA

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