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Review: Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby

Hurt Go Happy ReviewHurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby

Published August 8th, 2006 by Starscape.


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Thirteen-year-old Joey Willis is used to being left out of conversations. Though she’s been deaf since the age of six, Joey’s mother has never allowed her to learn sign language. She strains to read the lips of those around her but often fails.

Everything changes when Joey meets Dr. Charles Mansell and his baby chimpanzee, Sukari. Her new friends use sign language to communicate, and Joey secretly begins to learn to sign. Spending time with Charlie and Sukari, Joey has never been happier. She even starts making friends at school for the first time. But as Joey’s world blooms with possibilities, Charlie’s and Sukari’s choices begin to narrow–until Sukari’s very survival is in doubt. (Goodreads)

This story was definitely different than I was expecting and definitely a different sort of genre for me. I am familiar with ASL as I have spent the last 5 years studying it, immersing myself in it and the culture. That’s what I was looking for in this book. However what I got was quite different. The ASL aspect was there but it ended up being more about Joey growing up, finding her voice, and her relationship with Sukari. Based on the true story of Lucy Temerlin and Nim, chimpanzees raised as if they were human, Hurt Go Happy is the story of a deaf child’s unique friendship with a sign-language-using chimpanzee. I would say a big chunk of the story was a slice of life, meaning there was no grand plot, there was no story. I felt like I was reading a day in the life of a 13- year old deaf girl. I was experiencing things as they happened. Spending the better part of the past 5 years studying ASL her story is one I have unfortunately heard too many times. Joey is deaf and the rest of her family is hearing. Her mother does not want her to learn sign language because it will draw attention to the handicap of Joey being deaf. It will make her stand out.

“Hurt Go Happy” is American Sign Language for “the pain has ended.”

The entire time I was trying to figure out the meaning of the title and it comes in a scene well into the book. It happens so fast and is over before you know it. During the majority of this story, I was rather bored. However, the story picks up near the end and I was laughing, crying, disturbed, heart-broken, and elated. As an animal lover, I was horrified with some of the things that Sukari had to endure and I guess the deeper point of the story was that Joey dealt with her own form of torture.

If you’re going into this one for the ASL you’ll be disappointed a bit. It did have some passages of how signs are formed and deaf culture, but not as much as I guess I was expecting. This is more a story about a girl who fights for the survival of a chimpanzee. That girl just happens to be deaf and the chimpanzee just happens to know sign language. I rated Hurt Go Happy 3 stars.

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