Give Me a Sign
G. P. Putnam & Sons
Published July 11, 2023
About Give Me a Sign
Jenny Han meets CODA in this big-hearted YA debut about first love and Deaf pride at a summer camp.
Lilah is stuck in the middle. At least, that’s what having a hearing loss seems like sometimes—when you don’t feel “deaf enough” to identify as Deaf or hearing enough to meet the world’s expectations. But this summer, Lilah is ready for a change.
When Lilah becomes a counselor at a summer camp for the deaf and blind, her plan is to brush up on her ASL. Once there, she also finds a community. There are cute British lifeguards who break hearts but not rules, a YouTuber who’s just a bit desperate for clout, the campers Lilah’s responsible for (and overwhelmed by)—and then there’s Isaac, the dreamy Deaf counselor who volunteers to help Lilah with her signing.
Romance was never on the agenda, and Lilah’s not positive Isaac likes her that way. But all signs seem to point to love. Unless she’s reading them wrong? One thing’s for Lilah wanted change, and things here . . . they’re certainly different than what she’s used to.
It’s funny the way book life works out sometimes. Just last week, I was talking about a book that the author wrote because she wanted to see a story featuring a whole cast of people with disabilities, and those are so exceedingly rare.
And here we are, today, talking about another book with a cast largely made up of people with disabilities. There are still not enough books like this. I just thought it was interesting that, without realizing it, I’ve scheduled reviews for two of them in the same month.
I love that this is a summer camp book. It really delivered the atmosphere, relationships, and outdoor adventures that you’d expect to find in a summer camp book.
I’m not Deaf, and I don’t have anyone in my life currently who is, so I don’t have any experience with Deaf culture. This book was very welcoming and helped me feel both immersed and oriented in what the characters were experiencing.
One of the camp counselors is not Deaf, but she positions herself as an interpreter on her social media channels, even though she is still learning ASL herself. Her behavior and beliefs trigger a lot of conversations among the campers and other counselors. At first I worried a little bit that she would kind of be positioned as a sort of one-dimensional character to stand in for all the ways hearing people get stuff wrong.
That’s not what happens, though. I mean, she does get some things wrong, for sure. There are several really cool conversations about how her behavior makes other people feel, and some conversations with the wanna-be interpreter herself that were really deep, too. The relationship with her also becomes an opportunity for Lilah to consider the unsatisfying parts of relationships with other hearing people in her life and what might change if she advocated for herself more effectively.
I loved Lilah. At the beginning, she’s scared and uncertain and so not sure what to do about the parts of her life that aren’t working. She remembers camp as a safe haven, and a place that helped her feel more confident, so she decides to try to get a summer job there.
At the job, she really blossoms. She helps some of the campers. Makes new friends. Gamely navigates new ways of doing things. She also falls for a boy. The whole romantic thread of the story is super sweet, too. It’s the best kind of summer romance.
There was one scene in GIVE ME A SIGN that really shocked me. I wasn’t expecting it, and Lilah’s panic and frustration were palpable. It’s a really good scene, but it was also heartbreaking.
Altogether, though, this might be one of my favorite summer books this year. I loved it, and absolutely recommend it to anyone looking for a great summer camp read or a book featuring Deaf characters.
Recommended for Ages 12 up.
Most major characters are Deaf or blind. At least one minor character is Black. Another character is Dominican American. Two minor characters are gay.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Strong profanity used somewhat frequently.
Kissing between boy and girl.
A (young) boy jumps on Lilah while she’s swimming. She’s playing with another child in the water and isn’t prepared for him to do this. She’s worried about him accidentally hurting her, and he’s so rough it tears her bathing suit.
A man grabs a Deaf person from behind, causing a scuffle. The police get involved and scrape the person’s face on the ground trying to restrain them. They refuse to listen to someone who tells them that the restrained person is Deaf and cannot hear their shouted orders. The officer refuses to allow the restrained person to access their phone or writing materials which would allow them to communicate (and would have really helped defuse the situation, honestly).
The counselors go to a local bar where everyone but Lilah and one other person drinks alcohol. Several of them are under 21.
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