Shelly and Ian used to be close, but after Ian leaves home to attend the Hawthorne School for the Deaf, Shelly feels abandoned, and the two drift apart. When Ian returns home with news that the future of Hawthorne is in jeopardy, Shelly isn’t sure she wants him back. And Ian, who has enjoyed living with students and staff who sign all the time, feels angry when his family forgets to do the same.
An explosive argument that could drive brother and sister further apart actually offers hope for reconciliation—a hope that grows as Shelly’s spirited best friend, Lisa, helps strengthen their bond.
The siblings grow closer still when they find themselves coping with an unexpected tragedy. To fully heal her relationship with Ian, however, Shelly needs to acknowledge and understand why Hawthorne—and access to the Deaf community—is so important to him. To do so, she’ll need to take action and stop waiting for a sign.
Interview with Esty Schachter, author of Waiting for a Sign (November 2014)
Siblings Shelly and Ian (Deaf Character) used to be close but when Ian leaves to attend the Hawthorne School for the Deaf life changes dramatically for both of them. Shelly feels like her brother has traded in their family for his new Deaf friends; Ian finally feels free to pick the friends with whom he wants to hang out. But he comes home angry and lashes out at Shelly and their parents who also seem somewhat befuddled… that is until they all discover that Ian's misplaced anger has a great deal to do with budget cuts and the possible closing of Hawthorne. Ian isn’t taking the news very well. But that isn't the only reason he's angry.
In his defense, Ian misses his family too. At Hawthorne, he lives in an environment where he has access to all of the conversations-- the jokes, the serious discussion, true family time. Coming home to a family dinner table that includes parents forgetting to sign and talking in front of him is more than frustrating. After all, even Shelly’s best friend Lisa has started learning sign language so that she can chat with Ian.
In one of the conversations between the siblings:
“…I saw you signing ‘bike’ and ‘borrow’ and ‘flat,’ but I had to guess the other words from looking at your mouth.” Ian sighed. “I knew what you were trying to tell me, but it made me mad. It always makes me mad. It happens all the time. You do it; Mon and Dad do it.” Ian ran his hands through his hair. He looked me in the eye. “I want to know what you’re saying. I want to know all of what you tell me”(23-24).
I'm sure many readers will relate with this. And notice the italics! This note to readers (picture below) makes me so happy!
Waiting for a Sign
But back to the story...
Hawthorne has a poetry night which is going to allow the students to shine and show off how beneficial their school experience is. Ian isn’t so nervous about sharing his poem but he’s not so sure that his parents are going to understand him considering there won’t be voice interpreting of the ASL poetry. Sorry, you're going to have to read the book to find out what happens.
Schachter’s Waiting for a Sign emphasizes the need for clear communication even when we share the same language. This isn’t a preachy book about what it’s like to be a Deaf teen. Schachter includes various story lines that will resonate with many readers; and, she incorporates a great deal of Deaf history spotlighting renowned poets such as Clayton Valli and Patrick Graybill. There is a storyline that makes me think of those library suggested future book reading lists… The ones that read like: So if you like Switched at Birth, you’re going to want to check out this book. (Although it does have less teen drama and angst than ABC Family shows seem to feature… but anyway, you get the picture.)
This is a complex short novel you'll want to finish in one sitting. Ian and his peers don’t want Hawthorne to close and they’re going to try to save it at all costs! But how will Shelly support her brother? And why didn’t she invite her best friend Lisa to Ian’s performance? You’re going to need to put this on your reading list!