Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 12
- Grade: 8 to 12
- Reading age: 12
Sixteen-year-old Whisper, who has a cleft palate, lives in an encampment with three other young rejects and their caregiver, Nathanael. They are outcasts from a society (in the not-too-distant future) that kills or abandons anyone with a physical or mental disability. Whisper’s mother visits once a year. When she dies, she leaves Whisper a violin, which Nathanael teaches her to play. Whisper’s father comes to claim her, and she becomes his house slave, her disfigurement hidden by a black veil. But when she proves rebellious, she is taken to the city to live with other rejects at a house called Purgatory Palace, where she has to make difficult decisions for herself and for her vulnerable friends.
About the author
Chris Struyk-Bonn has detassled corn, worked in a small motor-parts factory, framed pictures, served in various and sundry restaurants and labored in an egg factory. She is currently a high school English teacher in Portland, Oregon, and has at last found a job she thoroughly enjoys. Whisper is her first book. For more information, visit www.chrisstruykbonn.com.
- Commended, Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Books of the Year
- Short-listed, Oregon Spirit Book Award nominee
- Short-listed, Leslie Bradshaw Award for Young Adult Literature nominee
- Commended, CCBC Best Books starred selection
"Raises some fascinating moral and geopolitical issues for class discussion...Whisper will enthrall, horrify, and anger young readers, but it should also give them a sense that they can create their own destinies."
School Library Journal
"I fell in love with the main character right away...The perseverance of [Whisper] to keep her dignity and strive to make a better life for herself and her loved ones, in the world she lives in, without changing the world itself, is more realistic than most teen dystopias written these days."
Back to Books blog
"Whisper is a fascinating, multi-layered character...Taking on themes of identity, belonging, class and gender, Whisper is a thoughtful and highly engaging young adult novel that will keep readers thinking and discussing long after reading."
Canadian Children's Book News
"A complex novel...Whisper’s trajectory from forest to village to city is intense and often anguishing; readers will likely be so sympathetic to the protagonist that they will be more than willing to endure her painful life lessons right along with her...Offer this to character-driven dystopia fans who will likely relish this glimpse into a multi-layered society that is as well-developed and plausible as it is troubling."
The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
"A darkly hopeful take on the universal themes of family and identity...The author’s vivid characterizations give this common trope urgency and nuance, and Whisper’s answer resonates with hard-won conviction. A thoughtful dystopian drama."
"A well-written novel with a compelling and likable cast of characters. The setting of the novel is never fully defined, but it has a modern post-apocalyptic feel to it...An engrossing read...Highly recommended."
"The author weaves a tale of family, hardship, kindness, and hope. The descriptive settings move from forest villages to the scary, infested streets of the city. Readers will empathize with the feelings and emotions, as well as grow to love the characters. Middle and high school students will enjoy this fast-paced book."
Library Media Connection
"The characters are well-rounded and not defined solely by their deformities or problems. This poignant meditation on the meaning of family raises fascinating questions about community and accountability."
"The strength of the novel lies in Whisper’s ability to stay true to herself, even damaged as she has become...The sense of loyalty and love created between Whisper and her chosen family is heartfelt and inspiring."