A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know The Sound of Letting Go is a story told in verse, narrated by a 16-year-old girl who 's living with an autistic -- and violent -- 13-year-old brother. Daisy describes Steven's behaviors (head banging, extreme routines, reactions to strong smells, loud noises, etc.), as well as the pressure that caring for him puts on all her family members. Steven hurts others, including slapping a caregiver and breaking his mother's arm; he also hits his own head on the wall, causing his head to bleed. There's some other mature material: Daisy has some pretty heavy make-out sessions with bad boy Dave, one in which she takes her shirt off in his car. She also watches racy movies on HBO, and her best friend admits to having her boyfriend in her room. There's some teen drinking, and a mention of a boy who brews his own beer. Even so, Daisy learns important lessons about life, love, and the importance of "forgiving yourself for being human, for the things you want to grab hold of, own, and giving yourself permission when you need to let go."
What's the story?
Daisy, 16, observes that her severely autistic younger brother, Steven, 13, is becoming increasingly violent as he grows into a bigger teen. She feels like a third parent instead of a child in her increasingly tense home. She's got a supportive best friend -- and a possible romance rekindling with a childhood playmate, now a bit of a bad boy. But mostly Daisy finds solace in her trumpet playing, for which she has an amazing ability. When her parents consider moving her brother into an institution, Daisy feels confused and doesn't want to be responsible for the decision. Now the girl who's never done anything wrong begins regularly skipping her morning music class, and might even fail her once-favorite subject.
Is it any good?
THE SOUND OF LETTING GO has some beautiful writing but a lot of storylines to follow. Readers may not feel much of a connection for Daisy's brother initially, as she starts by describing the difficulties of living with him. She's about a third of the way through her story before she reveals the loving feelings she had for him as a child. Toward the end, the dialogue gets a bit unrealistic and long-winded, and the storylines wrap up rather neatly.
Even so, this could be a good choice for the siblings of autistic kids or other children growing up with differences. Steven's behavior is extreme, but even readers who haven't experienced Daisy's situation will be able to relate to her concerns about what the outside world thinks of her family, her dread of going home, and her need for an escape into her music. Though there are a lot of pages, Daisy tells her story in verse, making it a rather quick read.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about differences. How do you feel when you meet someone who behaves differently from most kids? What are some ways to make that person (and you) feel more comfortable?
What other books have you read about people with autism? How does this one compare with them?
How do you think Daisy's family life shaped who she is? Do you know any families dealing with a member's special needs? How does it affect them?
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