Of all the super powers I’ve always wanted, flight being number one, reading minds was never one of them. The world is noisy enough. Why would anyone want to hear all the mundane thoughts that run through another person’s mind? So I was curious to see what Phoebe Kitanidis would do with the Whisper.
Joy and her older sister Jessica, Icka, inherited their mother’s ability to hear the wishes people think to themselves, though Jessica’s hearing is much stronger. While the ability torments Jessica and drives her into solitude, Joy uses her hearing to please people and stay popular. After watching her sister ostracize herself, Joy puts as much distance between herself and Jessica as possible.
The whole book takes place over just a few days. All Joy wants is to have a good birthday among her friends without her sister ruining it. But her hearing rapidly intensifies and she begins knowing more than she wants to, beyond wishes to the negative thoughts. She questions everything from her friends and just how sweet her crush really is, to perhaps misjudging her sister. She needs to talk with Jessica, but Jessica is gone.
I liked this book for a number of reasons. Kitanidis is a great writer. Both sisters seem like real people. Their problems, both serious and trivial, are compelling. Joy wants to be liked so she becomes dependent on her gift. Jessica misses her sister and has no place to unleash all the shallow things she hears so she withdraws.
The story takes its time developing, but it doesn’t feel slow. It’s a book about accepting yourself and not living to please other people. And it emphasizes that sibling bonds should not be underestimated. Sometimes it’s obvious when a book is setting itself up for a sequel, but not so with this one. It feels complete as a stand alone, which is refreshing.