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Impossible Music Hardcover – July 2, 2019

4.1 out of 5 stars 31 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up—When Australian 18-year-old Simon wakes up after a stroke and is diagnosed with an extremely rare case of cortical deafness, he is convinced that the loss of his hearing means the loss of his identity as a heavy metal guitarist. As he grapples with the emotional fallout of his diagnosis in therapy and half-heartedly tries to learn Auslan (the language of the Australian Deaf community), he also connects with George, a troubled girl with tinnitus. Text message conversations with George, support from his bandmates, and reflections on the meaning of silence and sound ultimately inspire Simon to redefine his love of music on new terms. What he invents is a performance series to alter the way people experience music, creating something he envisions deaf and hearing audiences sharing equally—but even if Simon's postmodern "Impossible Music" series is good enough to get him into a composition program at university, his misuse of George's personal texts as part of the performance risks tearing their relationship apart. This book explores the early months of Simon's diagnosis, tracing his journey from anger and despair to reinvention of self and incorporation into the Deaf community, with nuance. However, Simon's overwhelming angst and lengthy musings on the nature and theory of music can be tedious, and some readers will be inclined to agree with George's mocking description of Simon's performance as "Imponderable Moodswings." VERDICT A thought-provoking examination of what music is and means through a well-researched portrayal of sudden hearing loss.—Elizabeth Giles, Lubuto Library Partners, Zambia


"Filled with philosophical ideas about the definition of music and its accessibility to the deaf, this thought-provoking love story considers how to move forward into a new reality."—Publishers Weekly

"Simon's story of confronting deafness and Deaf culture feels fresh....An honest, satisfying, and surprisingly original coming-of-age story."—Kirkus

"[P]rofound....An inspiring read that is told with verve and depth."—Booklist

"A thought-provoking examination of what music is and means through a well-researched portrayal of ­sudden hearing loss."—School Library Journal

Simon renegotiates his bond with music, drawing on John Cage’s 4’33” and other pieces rethinking the meaning of the art form....It’s an original and intriguing notion, and Australian author Williams, himself a musician (though a hearing one), brings passion and considerable knowledge to the topic."—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Clarion Books (July 2, 2019)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 320 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 054481620X
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0544816206
  • Reading age ‏ : ‎ 14 years and up
  • Lexile measure ‏ : ‎ HL820L
  • Grade level ‏ : ‎ 9 and up
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 14.4 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.5 x 1.08 x 8.25 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.1 out of 5 stars 31 ratings

Customer reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5
31 global ratings
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Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States on November 26, 2019
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4.0 out of 5 stars First Novel with an Intriguing Premise
By Reasonable Reviewer on November 26, 2019
I received Impossible Music specifically to write a review. That said, I try to be honest and open in all my reviews.

All novels have bits of their author in them, but for "Impossible Music" the author, Sean Williams, threw his heart and soul into it. The novel is about Simon, whose life revolves around music then he overnight, Simon loses the ability to hear. Sean Williams was a writer who lost the ability to write for a time.

All of the devastation, the despair, the seven stages of grief that the author felt were translated with soul crushing accuracy into the protagonist, Simon.

I recommend this novel for musicians, for those that struggle with hearing impairment, or for your child as you are teaching him or her how to deal with loss and change. This would have been a great chapter book to read and discuss with my tweens (now in their thirties) when they were home.

This is a first novel, and I review first efforts differently than later works by established authors.

The novel takes place in Australia, and one of the central themes in the book is that Simon is going to need to learn Auslan, the Australian version of Sign Language for the hearing impaired.

Simon was unprepared, how could anyone be, for the sudden loss of his hearing, for an event that took away everything he loved. At first he was in denial, then he was angry, then depressed, ... he went through all the stages in the book.

The author did not present Simon as someone perfect. Simon did petty mean things sometimes. His biggest failing was when he "stole" a poem from the one girl who was trying to help him, G, and he pawned off the work as his own.

The love story of Simon and G was a central part of the novel.

There were three ongoing threads, Simon's acceptance of the "new normal" as a deaf musician, Simon's budding relationship with G, and Simon's relationship with his family and community.

I'm giving nothing away by telling you that things worked out as well as they could have at the end. Simon and G do not regain their hearing, but they do learn together to accept the new normal. Simon accepts his failings, and he learns to value people as much as music. Simon's family comes to accept him and his music in a deeper, more genuine way.

It is a bit emotionally difficult as a reader to get from the start to the reasonable finish. Knowing that in the end, things will be OK, not great, but OK, will help you to get through the challenging middle portion of the novel when you might be tempted to grab Simon by the shoulders and apply a good shaking otherwise.

I recommend this book, and to be transparent, Reasonable Reviewer is a musician who lost a significant amount of his hearing in Iraq during the war, and I could relate to this book at a fundamental level.
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Reviewed in the United States on December 10, 2020
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