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Friday, February 28, 2014

Review: The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe

Title: The Sound of Letting Go
Author: Stasia Ward Kehoe
Publisher: Viking/Penguin
Pub. Date: February 6, 2014
Genre: Young Adult
Rec. Age Level: 14+
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From the outside, Daisy’s life looks normal. A talented musician and good student, her future is bright and promising, but, at home, things are tense and complicated. Daisy’s younger brother, Steven, is autistic and, despite their constant efforts, living with an autistic family member is proving much harder now that he’s reaching maturity. Steven can now easily overpower Daisy and her parents and helping a teenage boy who doesn’t know his own strength and often reacts physically and violently when stressed and overwhelmed is putting a strain on the entire family. When Daisy’s parents decide to place Steven in a specialized institution where they feel his needs and happiness will be better met, Daisy is shocked. Part of her is relieved, but she mostly feels guilt, sadness, and anger. How can her parents just send her brother away? How can he possibly be better off without the people that love him most? As Daisy struggles with her parents’ choice and tries to come to terms with her feelings, her confusion and conflicted emotions about her home life seep into her school and social life. The darkness inside her manifests itself in her wardrobe, makeup, and even her love life, as she falls Dave, an old friend turned bad boy. She begins neglecting her responsibilities and the things she loves, including her music and friends. It’s Cal, a new Irish exchange student, that won’t give up on the old Daisy and reminds her of the powerful magic of music, finally bringing her back to herself and acceptance.

I don’t read nearly enough verse novels, but every time I read a novel by Stasia Ward Kehoe, I’m kick myself for neglecting the format. I loved Kehoe’s first novel, Audition, but I think I might appreciate The Sound of Letting Go more. Kehoe did an incredible job giving a voice to those families who include a individual with autism. My cousin is autistic and I remember how difficult it was when my cousin reached Steven’s age; Kehoe’s portrayal is painfully honest.

I can’t imagine having to make the decision to send my child to an institution, as Daisy’s parents do, even if I knew that he would be more comfortable in that setting than at home. If I were in Daisy’s shoes, dealing with the guilt and sadness of sending my brother away, I think I would have reacted much the same way. Daisy’s entire life has been devoted to order and consistency, carefully regulated so not to cause Steven stress, so it makes sense that everything she knows would be thrown into chaos. I can’t help but see Steven was as a powerful magnet that keeps everything centered… without him everything in Daisy’s life is spinning out of control.

I highly recommend both of Stasia Ward Kehoe’s verse novels. If you’ve never read a verse novel before, Kehoe’s offer a great introduction, showing just how versatile and beautiful the format can be!


  1. This sounds soooo awesome. I think I desperately need it. I can't even begin to imagine how much guilt would plague that family. What a horrible decision to have to make. :/ I haven't read many novels in prose, except (I think) for Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. I'm pretty keen to try this!!

  2. Sounds good! I might have to check this out!


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