Read My Lips is the perfect title for Teri Brown's debut novel. The main character, Serena Nelson, is oral deaf, meaning that she able to speak and has some level of hearing. She would rather read lips than use sign language. On her first day at a mainstream high school, without really meaning to, Serena reads someone's lips from a distance - kind of like overhearing something - and accidentally shares that conversation with some of her classmates. When they realize that Serena's ability to lip read may come in handy for their personal gain, they lobby for her friendship. These are the school's social butterflies, the girls everyone likes, the cream of the crop. Initially, Serena loves the feeling of acceptance, but she soon discovers that the price for admittance to their exclusive sorority may be too high for her to pay.
Like all teenagers, Serena has things she loves (like hooded sweatshirts and skateboarding) and things that bug her (like having to move to a new town). She starts crushing on a guy called Miller who is an outcast at school. She finds that she can be herself around him, and he becomes one of her strongest supporters. Even though the popular girls don't like him, Serena does.
Throughout the story, Serena deals with her physical and moral challenges realistically. She is not ashamed of her hearing impairment, but she tends to hide her hearing aids with her hair. She responds well to her own moral compass. When she lip reads private conversations between classmates or teachers at someone else's request, she knows what she's doing is similar to eavesdropping or spying, and she doesn't always tell them everything she sees and hears.
As Serena tries to balance her time with her crush, her family, and her friends, Brown gives each character distinct traits. Rather than the sorority being a clique of clones, each of the main girls has her own personality, and not all of them are gossip hounds. Some prove themselves worthy of Serena's friendship, while others, with their selfish agendas, do not.
For a time, Serena allows herself to look and act like the queen bees by taking out her eyebrow piercing and dressing in trendy clothes rather than comfy hoodies, but thankfully, she comes back to her senses. When the truth comes out in the end, as it always does, Serena is genuinely apologetic. She is a solid, believable character, and this is a solid story. Recommended.
Read my interview with the author.
Join Teri and ten other authors for a week-long launch party at her blog June 9th - 13th! Check out the schedule and the invite, then bounce back to the blog.