Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe

Viking Childrens, 2014

There is no stronger bond than....what?  Daisy isn't sure about her life anymore.  She remembers her family and the memories they shared, the little brother that came into her life, the music, her parents' laughter.  Although those same memories exist today, it's a completely different dynamic, especially when the entire family's loyalties are put to the ultimate test.

Daisy has friends, and she has a boyfriend.  She's musically gifted (more like a prodigy) and has been asked to attend prestigious schools and academies.  Her grades are good and her parents allow her to go out, but it's all dictated by her little brother Steven, who is autistic.  While their mother takes care of him most of the time, she also needs time away.  Their father works long hours and comes home worn out, taking on the night time rituals, including the wrestling match that is more common than showers now. They all walk on eggshells, afraid to make any sudden moves, noises, or modifying a different routine that will spiral Steven into an outburst.  No longer a child, Steven has gotten stronger and while his autism was more controlled when he was little, it has now become dangerous.  When Daisy comes home one day, she sees what Steven's unintentional outbursts did to her mother. It wasn't an easy decision and one that wracked her parents longer than Daisy knew, but it's now come to a point where her mother doesn't feel strong enough to help Steven.  Something had to give, and Steven will be leaving soon. 

A part of Daisy wants to be happy.  She can have her freedom back.  This could mean sleepovers at her house, going out on dates without such stringent time limits, going to music camps, playing her trumpet in the house instead of the basement.  But Daisy is also struggling with the change.  How could her parents want to do this to their only son?  How could she have helped more to prevent this?  What could her parents do more of so Steven can stay home?  It's an emotional battle that only Daisy can fight, and it will be the most difficult one she's ever had to.  Can the family survive this huge change in their lives when Steven has been in their lives creating the familiar habits they are now accustomed to, or will they fall apart over this controversial decision that will make each one of them re-evaluate what their roles in life and family are?

Stasia Ward Kehoe writes a beautiful novel in verse about a topic that seems to only capture lurid headlines without looking at the entire situation a family goes through.  Daisy is the character in limbo throughout the story by trying to have as normal a teen life as possible while also holding the reins of responsibility of taking care of a teenage boy whose autism is creating an unsafe situation he isn't even aware of.  Kehoe writes about this emotional stage of life from all perspectives while being able to fluidly create a centrifugal force that isn't Steven, but is Daisy's life, before, during and after. This is a novel unlike any other and one that should be on YA shelves.  Recommended.

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