The author has no idea what being deaf is. Yes, I'm going to break the general mold and talk about this. Why? It's an issue that hits too close to home. You can skip it if you want:
Spencer is deaf. There are degrees but he's at the top of it because he hears nothing. Zero. And that's some interesting topic to develop in a book and in a romance. He's young. It seems stupid to say that, but not when we join the word "young" with the term "the father is a psychologist", or a shrink? If it's the latter, that's even worse. Why? Well, it seems the father has an education, and a job (or he used to) that makes money. He's not that far from being aware that, at this time, there is some solution to deafness. It's called cochlear implants.
Why the hell didn't the father take Spencer to a doctor? I'm sure that if Spencer lacks a leg, he would have a prothesis. But if he doesn't have an inner ear, he doesn't get a prosthetic one. Isn't it ridiculous? It is for me. He is a shrink, for God's sake. He should know what the impact of being deaf in a hearing world is. I just don't get it, really. Is it just that being complete deaf in a love story holds more morbid fascination?
And I find it VERY hard to believe that Spencer catches every sentence said by every person that is involved in every conversation.
Firstly, it's IMPOSSIBLE to understand every word without sounds, there are lots of words that have similar pronunciation, so maybe you get a high percentage of them, but not all of them. And English is a tricky language, the lips movements are not that different from each other, and for a person who has never in his life heard a thing, to relate the movement with the sound looks like an odyssey.
Secondly, Spencer voice doesn't sound like he has any kind of problem for modulation. I mean, they only mention that he speaks with the words very separated from each other, and the sentences are written with dots after every word. But nobody has any difficulty understanding him. Believe me, it's very hard to understand deaf people. Their voices are suffocated as they don't use the vocal cords correctly. I've met lots of deaf people in my life and with some the communication was only achieved thanks to my lip reading and not my hearing. Maybe there are super special exceptions out there. But the chance is small.
Thirdly, let's say you do get 100% of the words. When you talk to one person, that's fine, you look at him/her the whole time. Unless that person is eating, or suddenly looks behind him/her, or he/she is crying or laughing and his/her lips are not moving the same, or you are walking along the street and you look to see if the traffic light is red or green. You would lose part of the sentence. No matter how you look at it, there will always be a part you don't catch. But then imagine it's not only one person, but two. You look at the first person's lips, then that person stops talking, and while you realize the other person is the one who's talking at that moment, you look at him/her and he/she's already in the second or third word or sentence. And if you add more and more people, the thing is only harder and harder. Now you have to guess who is the next one that is going to talk. And maybe some speak at the same time! Now let's say you are having lunch with your family. Do you always sit in a place where you see everybody's face? Maybe if it's a big round table but the problem remains the same.
Think about it for a sec. Or two.
Yes, it's very difficult and tiring and frustrating and lonely to be deaf.
This situations changes not only that person but the people around that person, too. Conversations become less spontaneous, in the sense that you can't let them flow normally, you have to be very aware that the deaf person is seeing you and that makes the dialogues less dynamic. For instance, although for Spencer it's not the case because he hears nothing, normally families tend to speak louder and vocalize clearer than the average person, so in the end their "ordinary" volume is higher and that could astonish normal people even if the deaf relative is not around. It's very logical but that's only the tip of the iceberg.
Maybe I exaggerated it a bit but I wanted to make a point and for you to realize things are not that simple for a deaf person. Of course when you have a disability you try to compensate, but it's very difficult to do so. I'm not talking about needing lights while driving or having special alarm clocks or not answering to the phone. You have to be aware that the info that person receives is always going to be partial and biased, and that has an influence, you want it or not. We know that one word in a sentence can change the meaning of it all, and if you don't catch that important word you misunderstand the whole message.
Spencer has not that problem. He's just so quick and clever he knows how every dialogue is going to be and when and how every person is going to participate in it. And he never, never, NEVER asks for some kind of repetition. Not once. And he never, never, NEVER misunderstands a thing. Not once. This is sci-fi instead of YA. I'm aware close relatives would be considerate and know how to deal with it. But there weren't any changes in Aaron's family dynamics while having a meal. Just don't speaking with a full mouth. So to cover that and try to convince us he has difficulties, the interpreter enters the scene. Well, that's weak. It didn't work.
I know one girl who is just like him. She needs an interpreter during the classes, too, although it's just by lip reading because she doesn't know ASL. She's very clever and knows her way around, so I know what I'm talking about. I could believe Spencer is very independent, deafness is not synonymous of weakness, but it surely gives you some kind of vulnerability. It makes you insecure and more susceptible to hurt than the average person. I get the frustration and disappointment when a person you like is told you can't hear and suddenly he/she exaggerates the vocalization and it's more difficult to understand the words. I can also get the feeling of loss, although that about a person deserting you just after discovering your handicap has never happened to me. And if that happened, I would send that person to hell first. I guess I have the luck of only meeting people who are sensitive and comprehensive, or maybe it's just coincidence all the assholes in the world meet Spencer and not me. My issue here is that he's just a normal guy without the hearing, and without the problems created by that disability, so in the end he wasn't believable for me. I know about Spencer's desperation at the beginning of the book, the need to connect with someone but that first scene with the deliver boy is just... unrealistic. And the Internet thing? Well... It didn't suit the shy and unsure guy he is day-to-day.
Another issue, Spencer's father. Groucho said military intelligence is a contradiction in terms. For me an alcoholic shrink is a contradiction in terms. You can't trust a gardener whose plants are dead. You can't trust a hairdresser whose hair is a mess. You can't trust a fat nutritionist. And would you trust a surgeon with advanced Huntington's? It sucks, but there are some limits in every profession, and I think Aaron's decision to put his sanity in that shrink's hands is insanity. But then Spencer's father has a method that seems to work for him. It's a free world, but still... It's an understatement I was a little shocked at this.
Changing the subject. Aaron, I liked him, but I think the author is quite melodramatic. I mean, there is no need of reveling in suffering to make heartrending a hard topic. There are more subtle and delicate ways to achieve that. And far more classy. The premise is good, a deaf and a sexual victim. I can't say it's not thrilling.
I think the most normal people here are Aaron's brothers. They were awesome. The tutor is creepy, my teeth ground at his exaggeratedly willingness. It's not necessary to have those extremes in a book and sometimes it's too pretentious. The mother felt a little unnatural, I was sometimes suffocated by her.
Now maybe this surprises you but, in spite of it all, I ended up enjoying the book. Lots of mistakes, lots of eye rolling, lots of sighs... Maybe I like drama and mindfuck?