Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Raging Quiet

A novel for young adults, this story highlights the struggle of an ahead-of-her-times girl, Marmie, and her new deaf friend, Raven, who is believed by all of the rest of the ignorant townspeople to be a madman.

Marmie meets Raven when she is brought to the town as a young bride on her wedding day, married to Isake, a lord more than twice her age. She notices Raven being beaten by townspeople as she and her husband ride into town on their wagon. While waiting for her new husband to finish getting drunk in a tavern outside in the rain, Raven approaches her bleeding, hungry and scared. Not at all intimidated, she offers him food and their unusual friendship begins.

Fortunately for her, after two days of not quite so wedded bliss, her husband falls from the thatched roof he is repairing and is killed. This leaves her free to develop her friendship with Raven, discover that he cannot hear, and begins her quest to teach him how to communicate by using signs. I found this troubling. Surely he was not the first deaf person in all of Europe. I didn't know why they found him so scary.

Set in medieval Europe, when witchcraft was feared and those with birth defects were considered evil, Marnie saintly and stubbornly teaches the young man "hand talk". When the townspeople (apparently all uncharitable and bad) see her using hand signals to him, they are convinced she is a witch and has put him under her spell.

I understand why these books are written. Yes, I suppose I can apply the moral of the story to our own day and recognize the universal lesson that just because people are different doesn't mean they are bad. Unfortunately, I think I'm too cynical for some young adult fiction.

This book was too simple and the characters entirely too boxed in. Marmie, is always selfless, always determined, always fearless and always right. The other characters were ignorant, mean and sneaky. I just don't enjoy the lack of subtlety. Few characters should so easily fall into a good or bad category as every single one is (or should be) flawed.

I think there are better books out there that tell this story better. But maybe not for young people. I don't think I'm the best judge.

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