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Sign Language Hardcover – August 18, 2011

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 820L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Viking Juvenile (August 18, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670013188
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670013180
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #562,876 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


To call this affecting debut a tearjerker is an understatement.  Will Abby's story of loss and love gain popularity? Signs point to yes. (Fiction. 12 & up) - Kirkus Reviews

This is an amazing debut novel for readers who appreciate contemporary teen fiction. It is both moving and realistic, a result of the well-crafted family relationships. - Shanna Smith (VOYA)

Ackley ably balances Abby's everyday teen dilemmas with the impossible heartache of a parent's illness and death, and the hopeful ending concludes a tale that is somber but never depressing. Bridging a nice gap between Lurlene McDaniel and Sarah Dessen novels, this should appeal to fans of both.--Snow Wildsmith (Booklist)

Ackley does an amazing job of writing from that preteen perspective, and Abby's reactions to what she witnesses are spot on. Ackley does a beautiful job of showing the progression from the early to late stages of cancer, and can do the topic justice because it is so focused. - Shanyn Day (San Francisco/Sacramento Book Review)

SIGN LANGUAGE tells of a pre-teen facing her father's cancer and how it's changing her life. Previously only concerned with a crush and an annoying brother, Abby's facing her family's wrenching breakdown in the face of illness and death. Afterwards, she can't even cry: how can life go on? A fine novel of recovery evolves. - Midwest Book Review

From the Inside Flap

Twelve-year-old Abby North's first hint that something is wrong with her dad is the scar that appears on his stomach after he goes in for kidney surgery. Soon, the thing she calls "It" has a real name: cancer. Before, her biggest concerns were her annoying brother, the crush unaware of her existence, and her changing feelings for her best friend, Spence, the boy across the street. Now, her mother cries in the shower, her father is exhausted, and nothing is normal anymore. Amy Ackley's impressive debut, winner of the first Amazon Breakthrough YA Novel Award, is wrenching, heartbreaking, and utterly true.

More About the Author

Amy Ackley, a Michigan native, inherited her passion for reading and writing from her father, a writer, creative writing teacher, and literature addict.

Ackley spent her childhood writing and illustrating stories, but took the long road to publication. She earned a B.S. in Human Resource Development from Oakland University, an M.S.A. in Human Resource Administration from Central Michigan University, and wore a variety of career hats (court clerk, flight attendant, and labor relations specialist, to name a few), spending late nights with her childhood love, writing fiction.

Ackley's first novel, Sign Language, won the first Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest for Young Adult Fiction. Sign Language, drawn from the loss of Ackley's father to kidney cancer when she was a teenager, will be published by Viking in August 2011.

Amy Ackley lives in Brighton, Michigan with her husband and an assortment of high maintenance animals, including three daughters.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 19 customer reviews
It was sad but I think would be a great book for kids that have lost a parent.
This book is about a twelve-year-old girl who struggles with finding out her father has cancer.
Reading this book...ahh, this has felt as if it's been with each page I've read.
Lisa Austin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 23, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
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(I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.)

So it took me awhile to decide what I even wanted to rate this book. It was great but it wasn't bad. It was good and I enjoyed reading it, but I was just unsure. The beginning of the book was a little slow and it wasn't until the last 100 pages or so that I was really into it!

The main character Abby is dealing with a lot of things for a girl her age; father dying, mother grieving, changing feelings for her best friend and just growing up in general. I haven't been in her situation so I don't know how I would have handled it. But she handled it in her own way. Instead of openly grieving her father's death she kept everything bottled up inside and pushed everyone away for fear of losing them.

Sign Language is a good coming to age novel, that's for sure. It starts off with Abby at 12 years old and just learning about her father's illness. And it ends with her at 15 and learning to cope and deal with all the changes and finally opening herself up to her family and Spence.

Oh Spence, he was such an adorable kid. I wish when I was a kid I would have known a boy this sweet. Abby takes advantage of Spence's kindness for awhile, which really broke my heart. But eventually she saw the err in her ways. Thank goodness! That poor boy needed a break!(less)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tessa-ftbotbblog on September 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Have you ever had that feeling where you know that something's wrong? That there's something out of place? You might not be able to put a finger on what exactly, but you have a creeping feeling that something is terribly wrong. Instead of investigating further, you choose to ignore it. Act like whatever it is isn't there. Maybe then it will go away, stop bothering you, and you'll forget that there was anything there in the first place. What if... it doesn't disappear? It stays right where it is, slowly growing and becoming more and more horrible with all of the apathy you have shown it. But no one bothers to tell you what's wrong, and you choose to look the other way. Until it becomes so unbearable that it twists your whole life out of control. Suddenly, you wonder how you could have ever missed it.

This is exactly what young, twelve-year-old Abby North goes through. She had no idea that anything was wrong. How could she, when the problems that claimed her attention were the fact that her long-time crush didn't know she existed, her older brother was unbearable, and she had no idea how to cope with growing up and the changes that come with it. If she could get through these, then Abby would be able to conquer anything. Well... maybe anything except cancer, that is.

Abby had been absolutely oblivious to the fact that her father was sick with cancer. All she knew was that he wasn't feeling good, but the visits to the doctor were going to make him all better. Or so everyone thought. It turns out that the doctors couldn't do anything for Abby's father. His condition is suddenly spiraling downward, taking young Abby and her entire family with him.

Abby's father is trying so hard to overcome his illness, but is he strong enough?
Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Traci "The Reading Geek" on November 3, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
Amy Ackley's Sign Language is the story of Abby whose father has cancer. Abby wasn't aware that anything was seriously wrong with her father except that it was taking him some time to recover from surgery. Abby's life begins to drastically change as her father is home resting all the time and her mother is afraid to leave his side.

Sign Language is a beautiful and heartbreaking story about loss and life. Abby's biggest concern used to be how to get the attention of her crush but, her life changes when her father gets sick. It is evident from the beginning how much Abby loves and adores her father. As he begins to die, Abby handles it all in her own way. Abby is not only losing her father though, her mother won't leave the house or her father's side and cries all time. Then there is Abby's sweet and loyal best friend Spence who tries to help her along the way.

Sign Language had me in tears several times throughout the story. I was immediately captivated by Abby and her family's story. Ackley expertly handles the topic of loss and grief. I enjoyed that the story spans over a couple of years without ever feeling rushed. The reader can see how much Abby grows and how she continues to handle it all. The book also has moments though that make the reader smile and hopeful. I completely loved the ending and it was definitely my favorite part of the book. I recommend Sign Language, it is an excellent story about growing up.

*A copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Niemi on September 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I only gave it four stars instead of five because it's not the genre I normally read. It was sad, but at the same time full of hope... just like real life.
I LOVED the style of writing, and the "realness" of this book. I felt like I was tagging along in the life of the main character. Very well written, and would recommend it to anyone!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By D. Williams VINE VOICE on March 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
When Abby North is twelve years old, her father comes home from kidney surgery with a sad diagnosis: terminal cancer. This novel takes readers from the time Abby is told that her father is going into the hospital for kidney surgery through his battle with cancer (about a year) and then another year after Mr. North's death.

Not only must Abby accept her father's illness and death, she must deal with the typical things girls her age deal with. The boy she thinks she likes shows no interest in her, and the boy next door - well, is he only a friend, or could there be something more?

So Abby wants answers. She wasn't brought up in any particular religion, but she turns to a Magic 8-Ball toy for answers when things get tough.

This book is meant for YA readers - those who are about Abby's age. If this adult reviewer can see and feel with Abby, certainly readers her own age can. Those who have two healthy, happily married parents may learn to appreciate their family more. With this in mind, I recommend this book.
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