I’m still super new-ish to the review scene so this is my third review. I’m going to switch up the format and try something new (and hopefully better!).
In a village without sound…
For as long as Fei can remember, no one in her village has been able to hear. Rocky terrain and frequent avalanches make it impossible to leave the village, so Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom.
When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink. Many go hungry. Fei and all the people she loves are plunged into crisis, with nothing to look forward to but darkness and starvation.
One girl hears a call to action…
Until one night, Fei is awoken by a searing noise. Sound becomes her weapon.
She sets out to uncover what’s happened to her and to fight the dangers threatening her village. A handsome miner with a revolutionary spirit accompanies Fei on her quest, bringing with him new risks and the possibility of romance. They embark on a majestic journey from the peak of their jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiguo, where a startling truth will change their lives forever…
And unlocks a power that will save her people.
For the short version of this review, scroll down and read the last paragraph.
I went into this book blind, preferring to know the bare minimum. I didn’t read a single review and all I knew was this was a world without sound. Let’s talk about how I felt reading the book initially.
Chapter by chapter, Mead had me hooked with her plot. I wasn’t surprised considering no work of hers has ever been disappointing to me before, but she’s also never done a stand alone novel either, so I was nervous going in.
Fei, the main character, wasn’t super charismatic to me from the beginning. I chalked it up to this being a stand alone, whereas I’m used to series progression. Things have to move a lot faster when you’re dealing with just one novel. I definitely grew to love her more as I saw her interact with her instructor and sister (especially her sister; HOW SWEET). The other characters felt the same to me as far as development. I feel like Mead did an A+ job for a book that’s less than 300 pages.
The entire time I was reading Soundless I felt very… involved. You know? I really felt connected to the story and like I was in it. Mead has never let me down in this department before, and I feel like she built up a lot of investment in me as her reader which I adore.
After I finished the book and started looking at various other reviews, I noticed one, huge, glaring complaint. “I loved the book but…”, “This was great except…”
Apparently by creating a deaf character that regains her hearing, a lot of readers were angry because it felt like deafness was something that needed to be cured.
First of all, let me say that being deaf is not a disease that needs to be “cured”. I took a class last semester on disabilities in the class room and something the professor told us when we covered hearing impairment was: A person who is hearing impaired can do anything a hearing person can do except hear.
With that being said, I don’t feel like the reviews criticizing Mead for her insensitivity are valid. Even before Fei regained her hearing, her deafness was never made out to be a bad thing. In fact, being deaf was all her entire community ever knew. It wasn’t looked down upon, it wasn’t a discriminating factor, it wasn’t anything that needed curing. In fact, even the entire subject of deafness was different from what we know; it was settled in folklore.
The only reason these people cannot hear is because a mythical creature called a Pixiu went into hibernation. When the Pixiu decides to wake up, we’re told that the villiage will slowly regain their hearing and not lose any of their other senses.
END OF SPOILER
I guess what I’m trying to say is the deafness isn’t really deafness as we know and understand it in our culture and society today. In our world, being deaf carries a weight and negative connotation. “You’re deaf? Oh I’m so sorry.” Luckily, that is changing. For example: America’s Next Top Model had their first deaf contestant and winner (I AM YOUR BIGGEST FAN NILE!) In Fei’s world, being deaf is totally normal. People live their lives, work, play, and love all without their hearing.
Mostly the criticism is that the main character had to regain her hearing to save the day. I absolutely don’t think that’s the case at all! Li Wei spends this entire novel going on a fantastic adventure, being super hot, and let’s just call it as it is: badass. Oh yeah, by the way, he can’t hear. He helped save the day (Shout out to the rest of the awesome characters, BECAUSE THERE ARE SO MANY, who help save the day who are also deaf!) just like Fei did. The subject of deafness and the restoration of hearing was taking a wee bit out of context by some of the readers.
Overall, I was super disappointed to see the reviews saying they were bored and annoyed with this book. I felt like this was a great book for young adults who are interested in exploring other cultures. This would be a great introduction for readers to begin exploring the Chinese traditions and folklore. The characters were so much fun, so sassy, and turned into some of my favorites that Mead has ever created! I think that since this is a stand alone novel, Mead did really well putting an entire world building process into less than 300 pages, which I can imagine is a very very very hard thing to do; appreciate her talent. To see how I feel about the deafness in this book, read (or reread a million times) the rant above.