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A Silent Voice vols. 1-3 by Yoshitoki Ooima

on February 1, 2016

First of all, I want to thank YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens Selection Committee for selecting Yoshitoki Ooima’s A Silent Voice as one of the Top 10 Great Graphic Novels of their 2016 list. (The whole series counts as one entry, in case you questioning my math.) There’s a good chance that I would have read this series eventually because one of my anime club officers suggested it, but it moved to the top of my reading list as part of the Hub Reading Challenge and boy am I glad.

A Silent Voice is a moving story about bullying, forgiveness, and redemption. When hearing impaired Shoko enters ruffian Shoya’s elementary school class, the students must deal with some changes to their everyday routine. Shoya, in particular, does not handle the disruption very well.

A daredevil who gets his kicks by jumping off bridges, Shoya is a physical, live life out loud kind of a guy. Since Shoko can’t speak, he can’t figure it out and that pisses him off. For Shoya, this means acting out physically with Shoko as his target. And so the bullying begins.

Ooima’s depiction of Shoko’s treatment is humbling. Shoya is so mean to Shoko, the whole class is. It’s the kind of mean that breaks your hearts and makes you sob and sob and sob for all the bullied people everywhere. It’s enough to make you want to quit the book, if anything because Shoko is so unwavering, so persistent in her kindness despite all the unkindness. But you can’t quit the book because you really want to see how it pans out. And so you do. NOTE: Slight spoilers follow…do not move on if you care about being spoiled.

The story takes a turn when Shoko is eventually withdrawn from the school after several pairs of Shoko’s very expensive hearing aids have been broken. The whole class is in trouble because of the hearing aids and suddenly Shoya, the biggest bully of all becomes the victim.

Fast forward several years later to high school. For Shoya, the bullying hasn’t stopped. He’s not beat up as much as he used to be. Mostly he’s just…ignored. Not only that, but over the years, guilt over his treatment of Shoko has begun to eat away at him. Shoya is truly at the end of his rope. Just when he is about to end things permanently, he meets Shoko again. And, in her instant acceptance of him, he suddenly finds a reason to go on. He wants to give her all the happiness he took away from her and if the scene when he makes this declaration doesn’t move you just a little well then, I don’t know what to do with you.

What I love most about A Silent Voice is the change that comes about Shoya when he is reunited with Shoko. He truly wants her to be happy and that desire makes him want to be a better person, not just to her, but to others as well.

Have you read A Silent Voice? Did you have anger and happy and sad and hope as I did? Leave me a comment and let me know!

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