Author: Anna Martin
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages
At a Glance: I continue to be a big fan of Anna Martin – an absolutely fantastic storyteller.
Reviewed By: Jules
Blurb: After spending most of his life in special schools, Caleb Stone now faces public high school in his senior year, a prospect that both excites him and threatens to overwhelm his social anxiety. As a deaf teenager, he’s closed himself off to the world. He speaks a shorthand with his parents and even finds it hard to use American Sign Language with people in his local deaf community. But Caleb finds comfort in his love of photography. Everything he can’t express in real life, he posts on his Tumblr.
Struggling to reconcile his resentment for his father’s cruelty with the grief of losing a parent, Luc Le Bautillier scrolls through Tumblr searching for someone who might understand his goth look and effeminate nature. When Luc reblogs a photo by Caleb, sparking a conversation, they both find it easier to make friends online than in person.
Luc and Caleb confront their fears about the opinions of the outside world to meet in New York City. Despite Caleb’s increasing confidence, his parents worry he’s not ready for the trials ahead. But communication comes in many forms—when you learn the signs.
Review: There is a lot to love about Anna Martin’s newest release, Signs. At the top of the list are Caleb and Luc. I adored these guys. They were refreshing and real, and just had a really lovely innocence about them. The more I’ve thought about this story in the last few days since finishing it, the more I realize how much I liked it, and how much of that has to do with them.
Caleb is an eighteen-year-old high school senior who is passionate about photography, and starts a Tumblr account to share some of his pics. He also happens to be deaf. I liked that he wasn’t a ‘typical’ deaf kid. He isn’t a superstar at sign language, and only begrudgingly attends meetings of a local Boston chapter of Deaf Youth to appease his parents, who want him to try to interact more. Being deaf isn’t the only issue keeping him from having a more normal teen life; unfortunately, he also suffers from social anxiety, making it even more difficult to make and keep friends. He gains a few followers on Tumblr, though, including catching the eye of a teen boy from New York City named Luc.
Luc is a goth kid who doesn’t really relate to his family, and though he does have a few friends at his new school in the city, he’s also a bit of a loner. Luc lives with his sister, Ilse, and his mother, who is never home. She stays out drinking and hanging out with her socialite friends, leaving Ilse to do most of the parenting for Luc. But, something about Caleb’s work speaks to Luc, and he ends up sharing and commenting on a couple of his posts, sparking conversation between the two.
The story mostly consists of watching Caleb and Luc become closer, and grow and mature together. The only drama coming from a bit of push-back against the parents – typical kids testing boundaries and exerting their independence – and also when Caleb applies to be in a trial for a new type of cochlear implant. But, sweet was the exact right feel for this story. They didn’t need a ton of angst or drama, it was simply enough to enjoy watching them fall in love, and decide what direction they want their lives to go.
Things get a little off track in the middle of the book. It definitely started out strong, but I felt like it wandered a bit through the midsection. There were a couple of awkward scenes, some unanswered questions – one being what happened to Jay? Luc had a best friend who disappeared, seemingly for no reason, which begged the question, why even include him in the story at all? And I think the cochlear implant stuff was maybe a bit drawn out.
That being said, however, there were even more things I loved: Luc helping Caleb work on his speech techniques (swooooon), the letter Luc wrote to the people in charge of the implant trial (amaaaaazing), the fact that even with all the communication barriers, these two were better at communicating than most adults I know. So much good stuff. We never learned what Luc’s aspirations were, but in the post-book story in my head, he studies to become a speech therapist. 🙂
From Tattoos & Teacups to Cricket and Jurassic Heart, and now a wonderful NA book about two fantastic young men in Signs, I continue to be a big fan of Anna Martin – an absolutely fantastic storyteller. I can’t wait to see what she gives us next!
You can buy Signs here: