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Sign Language

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Twelve-year-old Abby North's first hint that something is really wrong with her dad is how long it's taking him to recover from what she thought was routine surgery. Soon, the thing she calls "It" has a real name: cancer. Before, her biggest concerns were her annoying brother, the crush unaware of her existence, and her changing feelings for her best friend, Spence, the boy across the street. Now, her mother cries in the shower, her father is exhausted, and nothing is normal anymore. Amy Ackley's impressive debut is wrenching, heartbreaking, and utterly true.

392 pages, Hardcover

First published August 18, 2011

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About the author

Amy Ackley

2 books50 followers
(from Amazon.com)
Amy Ackley is a mother of three whose career has run the gamut from public administration to labor relations for top automakers. A storyteller since childhood, Ackley left home at the age of sixteen and the need to support herself caused her to abandon writing fiction for many years. She picked up a pen again after her first child was born, and she began writing Sign Language seven years ago. Drawn from her personal experiences with losing friends and family members to cancer, Sign Language is the story of a teenaged girl whose father's battle with cancer sends her into an emotional tailspin from which she is determined to recover.

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5 stars
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188 (30%)
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137 (22%)
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40 (6%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 121 reviews
Profile Image for oliviasbooks.
772 reviews512 followers
Shelved as 'unfinished'
November 24, 2011
With a few rare exceptions (i.e. Saving Francesca, Putting Makeup on Dead People, Saving June or also If I Stay) books about grief and me are usually not compatible. I am a big worrier, I have a lot of vivid imagination - the combination of both tends to keep me awake sometimes - and I primarily read for fun. It is nice when a book gives me insight or understanding as a bonus, but when I pick up a book I want to enjoy myself.

Therefore I think it was a very brave step of the author to offer me a review copy of her middle grade novel "Sign Language", which deals with a young girl losing her father to kidney cancer and having her family fall apart around her. The author's confident hint at my love for Saving Francesca kindled my curiosity. I hesitated, agreed, plunged in and read the first 30 pages. Yet rather quickly I found out that there will no love between me and Abby and will – true to my usual reading habits – call it quits even before the dad had his first relapse.

I have thought a bit about Abby today. My first impression of her was filled with utter disbelief. How can she at the age of twelve fail to grasp that her father is terminally ill? When I was ten and a young man in our neighborhood went through chemo, I pestered my parents about the reasons and consequences and his chance at survival. And when I passed him on the street I almost expected him to spontaneously pass away. In Abby’s case her mom volunteers only superficial, harmless sounding information (in hindsight I think maybe to trick herself into an optimistic mode) - a choice I would have expected from the mother of a six or seven year old. As a reaction or non-reaction Abby files her father‘s surgery under the same heading as her friend’s tonsillectomy and does not ask for clarification. After pondering all morning on and off about it I have come to the conclusion that maybe Abby’s behavior is more common than mine had been – a kind of subconcious suppression of a possible, unwelcome future instead of painting the bleakest picture possible in her head. But I simply cannot relate to her in spite of that. Equally normal may be her efforts to get on the radar oft he most popular boy at her school and to let out her inner bitch toward her devoted best male friend in the process, but they certainly did not make me love her more.
A lot of the other reviewers have stressed the real feel oft he story and of the heroine’s development. And I truely believe they might be right. It is just that I should not read books which are wrong for me - and me only - and then complain about them. That is the reason why I make an exception and let this book remain unrated on my unfinished-shelf.

Anyway, thank you, Amy Ackley, for being courageous enough to tackle such a diffcult and painful subject and for handing over a copy to me in spite of my low average rating and my tendency to judge rather harshly.
Profile Image for Stephanie A..
2,303 reviews62 followers
November 9, 2012
This book hurt so much to read. By the halfway point I was crying so hard every few pages I had to take it away from myself for the night. The biggest qualm I had was that she seemed really childlike for 12-going-on-13, and I worried about how the author was going to make her voice grow up -- but by the end, to my pleasant surprise, I felt like I was reading a regular YA novel after all, so I really like that we were able to follow so much of Abby's journey both during and after her father's death. After all, I was a fairly immature youth, and I probably would have reacted much like Abby, "don't tell me 'cause it hurts," and chosen not to know if my parents didn't fill me in on the details.
Profile Image for Vicky.
125 reviews193 followers
February 2, 2012
My review was posted at http://www.booksbiscuitsandtea.com/20...

WOW. I knew it would be an emotional story and I knew I would like it but I had absolutely no idea what effect it was going to have on me or how I would feel after reading it. Sign Language is an emotional roller-coaster that renders you speechless within the first hour of reading it. It's heart-breaking, it's touching and it's going to teach you some life lessons along the way. I wasn't familiar with the author's work before but I'm very glad I picked this up.

Although Sign Language features a third person narrator, it's still Abby whose thoughts we hear most of the time. Abby is an average 13 year-old American girl - a little bit of a Goody two-shoes who still depends on her parents, who's good at most subjects at school but is quite unpopular when it comes to boys of her age. The novel follows Abby's and her family's story before her dad is diagnosed with cancer and after his death, when the family slowly but surely starts to fall apart.

Abby wasn't someone I had an instant connection with and there were times when she was verging on annoying but still, she had many characteristics I could easily relate to. After the loss of his father, she turns from an innocent girl to a rebellious and angry teenager. She's angry with herself, with her dad for leaving them and she starts to gradually alienate herself from her friends. As her friend Leise sums it up: it's as if she wants to make sure she's never going to be happy again - she's too afraid of losing people she loves that she's determined not to love anyone again. My favourite character has to be Josh, Abby's older brother. What I liked about him the most was how the trauma of losing his dad has changed him. For me Abby and him seemed to be like complete opposites. While losing their dad made the innocent and friendly Abby bitter and angry, it made Josh, the rebellious teenager, caring and helpful. It was nice to see how much he cared about his sister, even if he didn't show any signs of it before.

Apart from the emotional storyline, what I really liked about this story was the message it conveys. It shows us that family is something we take for granted and the fact that people don't appreciate what they have until it's all gone. It shows you who your real friends are and who are the ones who will be there for you no matter what you do. Sign Language is a real tear-jerker, a heart-breaking but still very hopeful novel from the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award winner Amy Ackley. I highly recommend it to everyone - it's been the best YA novel I've read so far. Simply amazing.
Profile Image for Nikki (Wicked Awesome Books).
247 reviews66 followers
December 4, 2011
Sign Language is a bit of a cross between a middle grade novel and a young adult novel; it also has nothing to do with sign language itself. The sign language part comes into play because at the start, the main character Abby, a twelve year old with no worries and a loving mother and father, likes to talk to her magic eight ball and ask it for a sign regarding her nonexistent – but very much hopeful – love life.

Abby’s life quickly goes from being normal, to being the façade of normal. Her father has cancer. No. Her father is dying. She knows it, he knows it, her mother and brother know it, but they all pretend and hope and act, like he’ll pull through. Abby’s insistence that no one outside her family – not even her best friend Spence – know, is heartbreaking because it is realistic. Abby doesn’t want to be that girl whose dad has cancer. She wants normal.

Even if she can’t have it.

As the story progresses, and Abby’s father comes closer and closer to death, we get to see her grow and grow up. The story takes place over a span of about 3-4 years, so it truly does start out as a middle grade novel, but moves towards a more young adult field. I still believe it is a good fit for older middle grade readers though, as it handles death and grief and loss with so much honesty and raw emotion.

Death is never easy. And it’s not easy for Abby to handle. She starts off as a young, naïve, innocent girl, but quickly transforms into a saddened, even bitter teenager. She doesn’t know how to deal with her grief because she shies away from it, almost ignoring it altogether. Her family falls apart around her and there’s nothing she can do about it, but deal.

Amy Ackley has expertly handled death and life with Sign Language. It’s clear that she has experienced such tragedy firsthand; and has infused Abby, her mother, her brother Josh, the sweet boy next door Spence, and every other character with so much life that it is impossible not to feel and grieve and hope and live with them. The grief is real, the loss extreme, but the hope, the life, the love that comes out at the end – it is truly uplifting. Sign Language is heartbreaking in its raw portrayal of a family losing a father and learning how to live in his absence. The subject matter may be a little too mature for some middle grade readers, but I think it’s suitable for more mature MG readers and has plenty to offer for YA readers as well.
Profile Image for Aimee.
674 reviews63 followers
October 10, 2011
Oh. My. I knew a little about what would happen going in, but I had no idea how much of an impact this book would truly make. I was on the verge of tears for most of the first half and the second, I found myself in tears for some pretty intense parts. It was a very emotional read. And I'm glad I read it.

I was able to connect with Abby right away. I wanted to comfort her, protect her and it was hard to watch her experience this at such a young age. Reading through, it was obvious that Abby knew her dad would die, but she hadn't grasped the concept of him not going to be around. It was her first lesson in death and it just about broke my heart.

I'm glad I read this, but it was a hard read. I kept having to put it down to take breaks because it rings very true. Anyone who has lost someone to cancer can relate in so many ways and those who haven't don't feel cut off from the characters or the story. It was beautifully, heart achingly done. It something that definitely needs to be read.

The story's main focus is on Abby learning to deal with losing her father, but I loved to see how it went from losing him to learning how to live and how to heal. It is a story that everyone should read.
Profile Image for Riley.
5 reviews
August 1, 2013
Oh my, this book had me in tears, smiles, and sometimes angry with the characters!! But over all this book was amazing. It contained a mix of sad tragedies, awkward situations, and beautiful romance. I would recommend this book to anyone, male or female!!
Profile Image for Dave Moore.
Author 1 book144 followers
January 31, 2013
I loved this book! It drew me in and kept me there. I could not put it down!
10 reviews1 follower
May 11, 2021
Okay now my rating of this book is quite biased. Honestly, if I read it at a better time, it would probably be a four. After starting this book, my dog died four days later. I think I started comparing how I handled my grief to the way Abby did and that’s not fair. Abby chose anger whereas I collapsed into myself. I personally didn’t go through the anger stage in the five stages of grief so I did not completely understand where she was coming from. I also feel as if the book oversimplifies grief even though Ackley works incredibly hard to avoid that. It’s also important to keep in mind that this book was made for a younger audience so of course the linguistics of the book are not as amazing as The Fault in Our Stars for example. So, if you want a simplistic sad book that won’t make you too sad (I didn’t cry and I cry through most RF books) this is for you.
Profile Image for Wandering Librarians.
409 reviews48 followers
November 22, 2011
Abby's father is dying of cancer. Abby deals with this mostly by pretending that it isn't happening, until her father really dies. Now Abby has to figure out how to get through her days, with little help from her mother who has fallen apart. Abby knows her friend Spence will always be there to support her, but Abby finds she's pushing everyone away who tries to help.

The book is split into two parts, "Before and During" and "After." The book spans about three years; the year Abby's father is dying, the year after his death, and the year after that. It was interesting that the book covered such a span of time. In most of the YA I've read where a character dying is the main focus of the book, it either focuses on the process of dying, or the immediate aftermath. This looked at the entire process, from the original diagnosis, to the first year, to the year after.

I thought this was an unusually realistic portrayal of the loss of a loved one. No one was being a saint. There was no wise, dying prophet character. People are angry and hurt and sad and completely fall apart. This perhaps doesn't make as good a story. I think some readers would get tired of reading about Abby's day-to-day struggle that spans years. It certainly showed real people though, and that real people don't always deal well with what life gives them.

Abby deals with her father's diagnosis originally by ignoring it. "Cancer" isn't mentioned for a very long time. Abby is still in middle school when her father first gets sick, and it wasn't clear if she was just too young to understand what was happening, or if she was deliberately pushing it aside. It turned out that it was some of both.

As her father deteriorates, Abby struggles with how to act. She's becoming a teenager, a difficult enough transition as it is, and she also needs to figure out how to interact with her mother and father. She wants to help, but she doesn't know how. She's angry with her mother all the time, and although she doesn't want to admit it, she's angry with her father too. Throughout it all, she has her friend Spence, who is her support, and who clearly likes her but that's another thing Abby either doesn't see or chooses to ignore.

After the death of her father, Abby's mother falls apart, and it takes her a long time to put herself back together. Abby, again, feels disconnected from everyone. She isn't able to cry or tell anyone how she's feeling. She pretty much cuts herself off from all feeling, and her mother isn't able to see of help her. Again, Spence is her support, but Abby pushes him away.

Abby and her family go through all the stages of grief, but not at the same rate. Abby's mother tries to move forward before Abby is ready to. When Abby's mother decides to sell the house, Abby is furious. She feels like her mother is taking everything away from her. I found myself sympathizing with Abby and feeling annoyed at her mother, although I know her mother's reactions to the situation made sense as well. Abby's mother was feeling just as overwhelmed as her children, and for some time, she wasn't really able to help them. Again, this was plenty realistic but as a reader who was privy to Abby's inner thoughts, I wished her mom could have helped her more, even though Abby was pushing her away.

I think this is an excellent book for someone who is going through or experiencing loosing someone they care about, for both middle grade and YA readers.
Profile Image for Jacinda.
150 reviews88 followers
September 22, 2011
Sign Language has nothing to do with the sign language you may be thinking of, trust me I was thinking of ASL when I read the title as well. This book is about a twelve-year-old girl who struggles with finding out her father has cancer.

I cried the most during this book than any other book I’ve ever read. I used to have a book in mind I would mention whenever someone mentioned crying while reading; this book has taken its place. The first-half of the book was gut-wrenching. I put the book down a few times to stop crying and to get my head back in the game. I cried less during the second-half, but I still enjoyed the last section of the book.

We get to read about Abby from the ages of 12-15. I talk about this often, but usually I avoid books that have character(s) this young. Something about the description pulled me into wanting to read this; I’m SO happy I did! We get to experience how she feels and how different she is through three years of her life. How someone can change and grow, but in many ways stay the same is shown in this book. Looking back at the book now, I think Abby goes through every stage of grief, so we get to see her emotions go haywire at times.

He spoke to her. Not directly, mind you. Abby didn’t hear God’s voice; He communicated with her in writing on a three-dimensional pyramid afloat in deep blue liquid inside a black orb. He would answer her questions, but only those requiring a YES, NO, or MAYBE.

God spoke to Abby through her Magic Eight Ball.

We all remember Magic Eight Balls like the one on the cover, right? Abby isn’t a religious person, she only turns to God when something horrible happens and when she wants a sign, but she does speak to God a few times during the book by using her Magic Eight Ball. Her doing this made me smile and laugh a bit, but it also was sad that she turned to an inanimate object to answer questions and to make her feel better.

This book has taught me not to assume. I have children of my own and even though they are young, I need to remember that just because I know how something works doesn’t mean my children or anyone else around me does for that matter. You need to TALK and discuss with your children even though you yourself may be going through something difficult as well. I wish Abby’s mom would have been more vocal to her children in regards to their father. I do understand parents make mistakes and maybe her mom would have done things differently if she could.

There is a quote that really hit home to me. Some may think of it as spoilery (maybe?) but if you want to read it, just highlight the gray area below and you can read it.

*Spoiler Below*

Those of you who are saw this quote know exactly what I’m talking about. At this point in the book, I couldn’t contain the tears.

I couldn’t find anything wrong with Sign Language. It’s a novel I think everyone should experience. Whether you’re young or old, even if you don’t particularly enjoy young adult fiction, I think you’ll enjoy this one!

P.S. I just noticed I wrote this very long review, my reviews are never this long, and I didn’t even mention the boy! I will say this, there is a boy that is there for Abby from the beginning and he is the SWEETEST thing ever!
Profile Image for Michelle.
839 reviews57 followers
November 8, 2011
Posted on Book Chelle.

4.5 stars

I had to push Amy Ackley's Sign Language to the front of my reviews. This book deserves a lot of buzz and everyone I know should read this. Ackley talks about the sensitive topic of cancer, and in a beautiful way. My experience with cancer was from the patient point of view, so I didn't fully understand the point of view from a family member or loved one. So, if you have ever experienced this in some way, I suggest to read Sign Language. If you want to read a great and powerfully emotional book, I suggest you read Sign Language.

Abby is twelve years old when she started to notice things about her dad. He had to retire from teaching at a young age because he was sick. When this all started, Abby didn't worry. She believed her dad could bounce back and be back to his normal self. One day, Abby's life was turned upside down when she found out that her dad had cancer. Sign Language is heartbreaking coming of age story that consists of Before and After.

This was such an emotional read. The level of depth that Ackley brought to this book was surprising. I've read other books about death and loss, but nothing that seemed so real. Every detail, every emotion, everything brought me back to my own experiences. That is what's great about Ackley. She didn't have to force you to imagine it, she let you lived it.

At first I thought that the beginning was a little slow, but when I finished, I realized it was necessary to start that way. I had to love Abby's dad just like he was my own dad. I had to live Abby's life as if it were my own. By the end of the book, I was emotionally invested from A to Z.

Abby is a young girl that had to face some really tough adult problems. When everything happened, she didn't really have an outlet to let it out. Could I blame her for the way she acted? Absolutely not. I would have done the same thing. She dealt with her dad's cancer by keeping her emotions internally. She felt like she had to stay strong when others couldn't. She grew up right before my eyes in a way that no young child should ever have to do so.

Sign Language spoke about a really tough subject. Death in any form is hard to read, let alone write about. Ackley did such a beautiful job approaching the subject in a raw but sensitive way. She addressed things that most young adult books wouldn't. The words used to describe Abby and her family's pain was delicate, but raw enough to feel the impact. I'm glad that Ackley used a first-person perspective. Most times, when Abby appeared calm and collected on the outside, she was breaking down inside. It emphasized the emotional toll that cancer took on her family. It was truly effective.

It was emotional, but in a good way. It felt like an emotional bowl of soup, healing my emotions from a really tough time.

A fair warning to those who will read this book. Keep a box of tissue near you. I found myself crying every few pages, from the good times and definitely the bad times.
Profile Image for Carina.
196 reviews82 followers
October 5, 2011
My Rating: 4.5 / 5

First thoughts:
How do you write a review for a novel that has left you completely speechless? Sign Language is an incredibly beautifully written and heart-breaking story of a young girl who has to deal with losing her father at a young age. And despite being incredibly sad, I loved the hope that it conveyed.

More detailed:
Reading books like Sign Language always makes me appreciate my easy life a lot more and makes me hope that it will stay like that forever. The only severe loss I have ever experienced was my grandmother's death, and while I've missed her every day for the past three years, I also know that it's better like this. But the thought of losing my father, or any person this close to me, is sending cold shivers down my spine.

Abby North, Sign Language's main character, has to go through such a tragic experience. We get to witness her family's struggle to live with the knowledge that her father's cancer might, and will, kill him. Everyone of them - Abby, her brother Josh, her parents - is dealing with this situation differently, but exactly this is what makes this novel so realistic and heart-breaking at the same time.

At the beginning of this novel Abby is twelve years old and at the end she is fifteen. Therefore Abby doesn't only have to deal with her father's sickness, but with typical teenage problems, too. Growing up under normal circumstances can be difficult already, but how do you deal with your first crush, your first period or putting on make-up for the first time, when everything you should be thinking about is your father?

Amy Ackley's writing is incredibly beautiful and made it possible for me to identify with a young girl who has such tragic problems. It flows easily and makes reading this novel such a lovely experience - you don't even realize when you've read hundred pages and it's over too soon. The characters she created (especially Abby's best friend Spence) all play an important part in this novel and are very well written.

What I enjoyed most about this is Abby's hope to get signs from God or her dead father that they're supporting her and trying to help her get through this horrible time. Even before her life started to revolve around her father's sickness, she constantly asked her Magic 8 Ball (see cover) for advice, believing that those answers came from God. I can completely relate to her hope that little everday situations might be a sign that everything will be okay again.

All in all, I enjoyed Sign Language very much. I usually have a hard time reading very sad stories, but this novel turned such a tragic topic into a story full of hope. Don't be scared away by the knowledge that it might make you cry (because it made me cry) and read this wonderful book. It's a story that is impossible to forget.
Profile Image for Haley.
80 reviews
July 10, 2012
Sign Language is a book that made me want to cry, shout about and be happy. I never usually get that many emotions in one book. This book shows the brave perspective of 12 year old Abby North, who really grows as she deals with her father's illness.

Amy Ackley breached a serious topic with young adult and she did very, very well. Cancer, I think, is very easy to mess up when writing about. There are so many little things that you can't forget. Amy displayed all of them in a nice manner surrounding young adult.

The characters added the real emotion to this book. Abby's mother annoyed me a bit though. I knew it was hard for her, but what about Josh and Abby? All she seemed to do was cry and not really try and fix anything until the end. Abby ended up holding in all of her emotion because her mother never wanted to talk about her father. Josh was like that too until he broke down near the end. I guess every character had something that annoyed me. Josh acted as if nothing was wrong with his family and sometimes got drunk to get rid of it. Abby wouldn't face her problems with her father and Spence. Yeah, Spence was one of her big problems. Abby kept pushing him away, and she was afraid after every time she did that, he wanted less and less too do with her. She wanted to have something deeper in her relationship with him, but she had three things holding her back : her father yelling at her for hanging out with him in a bedroom, the fact that she thought it would change a lot of things and how she had a crush on the biggest jerk in town Logan Pierce. Fortunately, the ending was near perfect, and brought all of the imperfections to almost nothing.

I guess with the story, I was wondering what was going to happen after Abby's father. The story seemed to struggle on, but the reasoning was perfect, as I realize now. Amy wanted every single person who was reading this book to see how Abby dealt with her life after. I mean, were talking 3 years after. I loved how she didn't try to rush it, but adding the most important details. I think Abby reacted a little abnormal as to what I probably would have (including breaking down a lot, being depressed and a whole lot of crying), but who can blame her? She didn't cry so what else?

It seems like I'm just nagging on this book, but really, I loved this book. It just had a lot of emotion that I had to talk about. Sign Language reminds me of The Sister's Keepers a bit. I fully recommend Sign Language to anyone who likes Realistic Fiction in teen YA.
Profile Image for Krista (CubicleBlindness Reviews).
601 reviews108 followers
November 25, 2011
Having a parent die at a young age can be really hard. Although it's quite different if it's sudden or if it's slow. In Sign Language Abby's father has been suffering for a long time. In the book we see bits and pieces of the real details, but enough to understand. What was heartbreaking is how Abby comes to terms with her fathers death. She's young, so she's given just enough info to let her know what's going on but not more than the family thinks she can handle. I appreciated the chapter in which they attend the funeral and she freaks out. I could feel her pain and her confusion and I think that she wasn't given more details more due to the family not wanting to acknowledge the truth more than what they thought she'd be able to handle.
It's really a coming of age story. Abby deals with her fathers sickness and death alongside her family. We get to see into each of the family members emotions and reactions to the loss. Each person deals with it in a different way, but Abby is young and her understanding of the loss is handled more as a learning process throughout the story.
Although the death and sickness of her father is not the only thing Abby has to deal with. There are decisions made in each of the family members lives to be able to adapt and move on. Abby's story continues to grow as she and her family deal with the loss, she must also still understand friendship and school, and boys.
Even though the story revolves around the loss in the family, there is not a huge focus on his sickness. We do get to see some parts of what Abby witnesses as her dad is sick, but as it's just barely viewed by Abby it's handled in the story with caution and just enough pieces to understand what is happening for the reader.
It was more of a coming of age story, with a girl who has to overcome several things and along the way learns a lot about life, family and relationships.
Profile Image for Brian.
291 reviews116 followers
October 8, 2011
What's it like to lose your father? What if you didn't know you were losing him? For Abby North, only a 13-year old, she has to deal with both these questions at far too young an age. Her dad is dying from cancer, and her parents don't even tell her what It is until it's close to the end. In the first ever Amazon Breakthrough YA Novel winner, author Amy Ackley weaves a heartbreaking story told through pain, shadows, tears, empty stomachs, and hope. We follow Abby through her highest highs and lowest lows as she tries to live her life, with every single day impacted by the death of her father. What's even worse than this, though, is trying to piece things together afterwards.

At first, I wasn't sure if I would like this one. It got off to a slower start than I would have liked for a YA novel. But by the end, I was reading 50-100 pages at a time without even noticing how much I'd read. Tears welled in my eyes a few times, and the end left me with a satisfying shiver up my spine that only a good story can achieve. The only thing I would really like to see in this one is a first-person perspective. I think that would take this to the next level. I believe this is based somewhat on the author's own experiences, though, and it may have had to be third person just to achieve that level of disconnect so Abby could be Abby, and not Amy Ackley.

This book is perfect for ages 11 and up, but those younger than that may have a difficult time with death and the grieving process being such major plot elements. Anyone who's not afraid to open themselves up and feel when they're reading should give this one a shot.
Profile Image for Shelley.
1,223 reviews
September 6, 2013
The theme of this book is loss and survival which the author embraces whole heartedly. Abby and her family is dealing with the fact that her father has cancer and he has only been given months to live. As his illness progresses, the whole family has to find their own way of dealing with what is to come. Her father often takes a light hearted approach which her mother hates. Her brother becomes more of a caregiver than a son and Abby feels lost in the shuffle. She has moments when she is sad but cannot seem to mourn the coming loss, and other times she just wants to escape from everything around her. But life has to go on, and Abby has to find her own way to deal with how she wants her life to proceed.

I didn’t give the book five stars more because I felt Abby was often self-centered so this had nothing to do with the overall quality of the book. I will admit I had times when I wanted to shake her and tell her to snap out of it. But everyone deals with grief differently and I do respect the author’s perspective of Abby. I think this is a book for everyone, even with a girl cast as the main character. We all need a little insight to understand what others are going through in times such as these. Maybe you have already been through it yourself, but if you haven’t, you might have a better understand of how to be supportive and a good friend during someone else’s time of need. The book might also explain why a friend or relative is behaving in a way you just can’t understand. I highly recommend this book for all readers from junior high and up.
Profile Image for Kaitlin.
109 reviews8 followers
October 25, 2011
Check out more reviews at Books to the Sky.

(I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.)

So it took me awhile to decide what I even wanted to rate this book. It was great but it wasn't bad. It was good and I enjoyed reading it, but I was just unsure. The beginning of the book was a little slow and it wasn't until the last 100 pages or so that I was really into it!

The main character Abby is dealing with a lot of things for a girl her age; father dying, mother grieving, changing feelings for her best friend and just growing up in general. I haven't been in her situation so I don't know how I would have handled it. But she handled it in her own way. Instead of openly grieving her father's death she kept everything bottled up inside and pushed everyone away for fear of losing them.

Sign Language is a good coming to age novel, that's for sure. It starts off with Abby at 12 years old and just learning about her father's illness. And it ends with her at 15 and learning to cope and deal with all the changes and finally opening herself up to her family and Spence.

Oh Spence, he was such an adorable kid. I wish when I was a kid I would have known a boy this sweet. Abby takes advantage of Spence's kindness for awhile, which really broke my heart. But eventually she saw the err in her ways. Thank goodness! That poor boy needed a break!
Profile Image for Books to the Sky.
108 reviews21 followers
November 10, 2011
Check out more reviews at Books to the Sky.

(We received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.)

So it took me awhile to decide what I even wanted to rate this book. It was great but it wasn't bad. It was good and I enjoyed reading it, but I was just unsure. The beginning of the book was a little slow and it wasn't until the last 100 pages or so that I was really into it!

The main character Abby is dealing with a lot of things for a girl her age; father dying, mother grieving, changing feelings for her best friend and just growing up in general. I haven't been in her situation so I don't know how I would have handled it. But she handled it in her own way. Instead of openly grieving her father's death she kept everything bottled up inside and pushed everyone away for fear of losing them.

Sign Language is a good coming to age novel, that's for sure. It starts off with Abby at 12 years old and just learning about her father's illness. And it ends with her at 15 and learning to cope and deal with all the changes and finally opening herself up to her family and Spence.

Oh Spence, he was such an adorable kid. I wish when I was a kid I would have known a boy this sweet. Abby takes advantage of Spence's kindness for awhile, which really broke my heart. But eventually she saw the err in her ways. Thank goodness! That poor boy needed a break!
Profile Image for Chelsea Denisse.
99 reviews
April 20, 2012
Amazing, incredible, great, fanastic, excellent etc. etc. etc.

Characters: All the characters I think were amazing, they each held what personality I thought was appropriate for people going through that time. I felt sorry for all the Norths and I couldnt help want to help them with all their problems. They each had their own way of dealing with life and I loved that and each character I could see actually living and I actually felt like I wanted to meet them and talk to them about life and thats something I have never experienced before.

Plot: This story touched me dearly because the main character was my age when it happened to her and I couldnt imagine what I would be like in the same shoes but even after I finished this story I felt myself thinking about that family. At first I thought that all the characters' emotions were a bit over made but after I thought about it, it would be exactly how any other person might act. This sotry has a lot of wise things that can help anyone in their everday life and I love that.

Overall: Overall I feel that this book is for ages 12- whatever age you are because I feel that anyone will love this story as much as I did. It might affect girls a bit more but I still think boys can read it if they. I love this story and I literally cannot say anything but good things about it. Dont judge this book by the cover or even the summary because neither of those things even begin to explain this book. I love it and please check it out.

Profile Image for Sally Kruger.
967 reviews6 followers
January 15, 2013
Abby's parents explain that her father is having an operation to remove one of his kidneys. He comes home from the hospital and seems a little tired, but other than a scar on his stomach, he doesn't seem any different. Abby learns that he will be going back from time to time for treatments, but he assures her everything will be fine.

Life goes on. Abby hangs around with her best friend Spence. She goes to school and does her homework plus all the extra credit. She fights with her brother and disagrees with her mother. Her father's treatments are making him tired and sick, and one day her mother announces he will be retiring from his teaching job at the high school.

When Abby overhears a conversation that includes the word cancer, she knows that everything is not going to be fine. The worst happens and her father dies. Nothing seems real, and Abby keeps expecting him to walk through the door or be sitting in his recliner in the living room. How can life go on without him?

Author Amy Ackley tells a story of loss that emphasizes the hard facts associated with grief. As Abby's remaining family members experience the stages of grief, Ackley shows that each of us grieve in our own way and in our own time. SIGN LANGUAGE is a powerful look at love and family and living after loss.
Profile Image for Olivia S..
22 reviews
March 2, 2012
In “Sign Language” Abby North has a normal life. She gets good grades, she has friends, and she has the popular Logan Pierce as her secret crush. But her life turns upside down when her dad finds out he has cancer after having a recent kidney surgery and the cancer is spreading quickly through his body. Abby’s mom now cries in the shower and is so filled with grief that she won’t pay attention to anything but Abby’s dad. Sooner or later Abby’s dad dies, and Abby’s mom turns depressed and her whole world falls apart. Spence, the nearby neighbor tries to help out as much as he can during this bad time. Abby’s feelings change for Spence later in the book.

I personally really liked this book and I could not put it down. It was very well written and kept me wondering what was going to happen next. It had action and drama and romance; everything I like in a book. It was sort of slow at the beginning, but the story quickly picked up the pace.

I would recommend this to 6th graders and up. This book has maybe one or two swear words but it is not really that bad. It’s a nice clean book and both boys and girls would like it. I think girls would enjoy the book more though due to the girly teen drama and romance in the book. I think everyone should read it.
Profile Image for Shari.
434 reviews15 followers
May 3, 2012
A beautifully heartbreaking story about loving, losing, and growing up during both. This story was so touching and made me realize once again how blessed I have been. I cried and cried while reading this book because even if this isn't a true story, it really is. This happens so often that it was really easy to relate to.
Ackley did such a wonderful job of making the characters real that they felt like people you have known your whole life. Even though I occasionally wanted to yell at Amy to get her head out of the sand and pay attention to what was going on I also was able to understand why she wanted to refuse what was happening.
This story will have you crying and laughing and will make you want to go tell everyone you love how much they mean to you.

Plot: Lovely and Heartbreaking
Characters: Excellent, you'll forget that your reading about people you don't know
Writing: Easy to read and very engaging
Ending: Perfect
Kid Friendly: As long as you can handle death you will be safe reading this book.
Overall: Beautiful and Sad
Should You Read It? Definitely
Cover: Fits in perfectly with the novel
Profile Image for Emily Benoit.
295 reviews
March 11, 2012
Concept/Ideas: 5/5
Storyline/Plot: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Writing Style: 5/5
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars



From the very first page I was absoloutely HOOKED!
The storyline is commonly used, yes, BUT, it was written in such a interesting, heart breaking, tear jerking, wonderful way, that you can't help but look at it in a different light.


From page one..... I loved it.
The writing is so well done, and although it is a hefty book, it is such a fast read. The plotline goes quite fast, and there is constantly something happening, whether it be tragic or a progression or growth of a character.

What I also liked was that this book took place on a course of about four years. It definitely makes you feel like your on a journey....

Every page of this book is sad.. amazing... interesting... so many emotions run though your head while reading.

I cannot explain in words just how good it is... PLEASE just go out and read it! YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED!
Profile Image for Heidi.
1,130 reviews2 followers
May 20, 2013
Part One: Before and During - Abby is 12 and understands that her father is seriously ill; she even realizes that he has cancer, even though the "C" word hasn't been mentioned in her home. While trying to cope with the change of having Dad retire from teaching and be confined to a bed, Abby's teenage life continues--her unrequited feelings for the popular boy at school, the lovely relationship she has with Spence, her BFF, and the conversations she has with the magic 8 ball.

Part Two: After - Here we see Abby as she struggles to keep her life and emotions on an even keel after the death of her dad. The emotional outbursts, the anger at her mother's possible first date, and the exhileration of being asked to prom by the boy of her dreams combine for two years of heartache for you, the reader. You will feel that anger, the sadness felt by Abby as she watches her older brother cry, and the relief when she seems to be moving forward in the grieving process. As an adult who lost a parent to cancer when I was 14, I found the writing spot-on, with Abby's grieving process seeming to match much of what I remember from my youth. Highly recommended for ages 12 and up.
Profile Image for Lori Henrich.
1,029 reviews70 followers
January 11, 2012
Abby North is only twelve-years-old when her life begins to change, and she doesn't even realize it is coming. The only indication she has that something is wrong, is that her father is sick. He is going into the hospital for what Abby thinks is a routine operation. What she doesn't realize is that this is just the beginning of the end for her dad.

A thought provoking story. I was angry at the parents for not explaining what was happening to Abby and her brother Josh. They were left in the dark with no clear answers to the questions they were afraid to ask. And when a question was asked, a straight answer was not given.

I had a hard time with parts of the story because it brought back memories of the loss of my father. I was 26 when he passed away, and it wasn't easy. I couldn't imagine what it would have been like at the age of twelve.

I was glad I read this story, but sad at the same time. I would recommend this book. Just know that is isn't a lighthearted tale. So keep that in mind if you decide to read it.
Profile Image for Rachel.
626 reviews4 followers
January 7, 2013
I read Amy Ackley’s Young Adult novel, Sign Language, in one day. It is a well-written but sad story about Abby, a 13-year-old girl, who loses her father to cancer. Her father dies less than half way through the book, and the story really centers on Abby and her families as they come to terms with the death, grieve, and ultimately go on with their lives. It will definitely make you cry.
Abby never really understood that her father would die. Her family didn’t speak about “It” and as Abby puts it, “I knew my dad was going to pass away…I didn’t know he was going to die.” Since the story is told from Abby’s point of view, the reader doesn’t get to glimpse into how her mother and father may plan for the death on their own or even how Abby’s brother copes with it. I kept wishing her mother and father would have an open conversation about what was happening rather than sheltering their kids. There is no one way to grieve and accept the lose of a parent, and Ackley presents one perspective. Any one who has lost a parent or a loved one will appreciate Ackley’s novel.
Profile Image for Shanyn.
375 reviews141 followers
December 18, 2011
Abby North is a twelve year old who is trying to deal with normal adolescent woes when she starts to notice her dad is not feeling very well. Amy Ackley does a great job of writing from Abby's point of view and keeping it in an age appropriate tone of voice and maturity level.

I wasn't expecting Sign Language to be so focused on Abby's dad's cancer, but Ackley does an excellent job progressing with Abby as she moves from discovery of the illness to dealing with what happens afterwards. It was very interesting to watch Abby move from not knowing much about the illness to having it take over parts of her life - and also quite hard to read because it was so emotional.

Ackley's debut novel, while focused on a topic that can be uncomfortable, is beautifully written and full of emotion. Each scene is written very realistically and could be a good read for a younger teen going through a similar situation to Abby.

Profile Image for Rebecca.
856 reviews60 followers
March 23, 2012
Not too bad for a first time writer, but could totally use some improvements on the prose. Something seemed a little off. Young girls father gets cancer and dies and her family kind of falls apart. I did not like the mother in this book at all, she totally fell apart and while it could and probably was very real, still annoyed me. So sue me, whatever. Be strong, if only for your kids! But the mother treated the Girl and her older son like adults and was not strong for them. The girl threw typical teenage tantrums, which I oddly kind of liked, made the story seem more real. Of course, typical teen romance drama, that thankfully the Girl figured out quickly was wrong for her. The whole thing felt a bit fanfic'y for me but without celebs, like the author was just rewriting her own life. I could relate to that writing, but there was just something about the prose that annoyed me. I'd pick another book up from this author, to see some improvement and to see where she goes with her writing.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Emily M..
51 reviews
April 15, 2012
Abby thought her life was perfect, but everything changed when her dad gets cancer, and dies. All Abby wants is for everything to go back to normal but now her mom cries all the time, and her dad isnt here to help her get through hard times, and her best friend Spence is maybe changing into more that just friends. Abby has a rough couple of years because all she wants is for her dad to come back, but Abby relizes with the help of Spence is that it doesn't matter where you are in life, but who youchoose to have in it. I really liked this book, its sad but its really good. The book takes place over 2 years and i didnt erally like that at first because it was a little hard to get used to but it got better near the end.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Lauren.
517 reviews80 followers
January 1, 2014
It's not that this wasn't well-written, or well thought out or any of that, but when reading a book there needs to be at least a spark of connection with the main character. SOMETHING that has you rooting for them and what their goal is in the end, but I just couldn't connect with Abby. She was so unbelievably self-absorbed and so completely undeserving of some of what she said and did. She was more whiny than Harry Potter in Order of the Phoenix and I really just couldn't get past that. The writing style was lovely, and I loved most of the other characters, but some things I just couldn't get past.
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