Impossible Music

HMH. Jul. 2019. 320p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544816206.
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.

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