Author: Greg Howard
Pages: 256 Pages
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Release Date: January 15th, 2019
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
*Thank you Penguin Random House for providing a free advanced readers e-copy of The Whispers to review.*
A middle grade debut that’s a heartrending coming-of-age tale, perfect for fans of Bridge to Terabithia and Counting By 7s.
Eleven-year-old Riley believes in the whispers, magical fairies that will grant you wishes if you leave them tributes. Riley has a lot of wishes. He wishes bullies at school would stop picking on him. He wishes Dylan, his 8th grade crush, liked him, and Riley wishes he would stop wetting the bed. But most of all, Riley wishes for his mom to come back home. She disappeared a few months ago, and Riley is determined to crack the case. He even meets with a detective, Frank, to go over his witness statement time and time again.
Frustrated with the lack of progress in the investigation, Riley decides to take matters into his own hands. So he goes on a camping trip with his friend Gary to find the whispers and ask them to bring his mom back home. But Riley doesn’t realize the trip will shake the foundation of everything that he believes in forever.
I enjoyed this book. It was a sweet magical tale that made me love the main character.
We are introduced to Riley at the very beginning and dive into his life. He is dealing with the mysterious disappearance of his mom, his sudden habit of waiting the bed that only came after his mom disappeared and what he calls his condition, which is in reality his sexual orientation. Riley doesn’t struggle to understand that he doesn’t like boy, it’s more of an understanding of why people still find it weird that he would rather kiss boys than girls and why his feelings were more persuading towards boys like Dylan than girls like Susan. Although I cannot speak to the experience of the queer protagonist, it still makes me think of every kid’s first journey into the emotion of something much more deeper than friendship. I loved how Riley developed as a character because he was able to be multi-faceted throughout the story.
The writing was AMAZING! I couldn’t believe how beautiful everything felt as I read it. The Whispers were written as whimsical, mysterious and fantastical. It was a pure story of holding on to the things you believe even if no one else wants you to continue believing them. But also, it gave me the message that to believe in yourself. We were in the mind of Riley learning about all the clues that led up to his mother’s disappearance, the change in family structure, his search for father’s love, the longing feeling that his mother left him and the fire within him to find his mother. This middle grade was a great story of self-discovery and it captivated all the feelings Riley was facing. I have to admit that I did get emotional throughout this story. I wanted to nurture Riley and let him know that his hope and belief in the Whispers was valid and who he was is valid.
I cannot say enough about how great this story was written. I will note some content/trigger warnings: Homophobic verbal behavior form classmates as I think this is important to mention.
About the Author
Greg Howard grew up near the coast of South Carolina. His hometown of Georgetown is known as the “Ghost Capital of the South” (seriously…there’s a sign), and was always a great source of material for his overactive imagination. Raised in a staunchly religious home, Greg escaped into the arts: singing, playing piano, acting, writing songs, and making up stories. Currently, Greg resides in Nashville, Tennessee, with his husband, Steve, and their three rescued fur babies Molly, Toby, and Riley.
Thank you again Penguin Random House for allowing me to be part of The Whispers Tour!
Want to follow the tour? Check below for the next stops!
January 22 – A Bronx Latina Reads – Review
January 23 – Buttons Book Reviews – Author Q&A
January 24 – The Hermit Librarian – Review + Book Aesthetic
January 25 – Andy Winder – Author Guest Post: The Whispers is a middle grade novel that features a queer protagonist. What influenced you to write LGBTQ middle grade and what are some of the positives or challenges of writing in this genre? Do you have any LGBTQ middle grade book recommendations?