Warning: If you have not read “Tone Deaf” by Olivia Rivers, do not read this review unless you’ve read the book and/or don’t mind spoilers!
I’m back with another book review, and this time it’s “Tone Deaf” by Olivia Rivers! Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:
“His world is music. Her world is silent.
Ali Collins was a child prodigy destined to become one of the greatest musicians of the twenty-first century—until she was diagnosed with a life-changing brain tumor. Now, at seventeen, Ali lives in a soundless world where she gets by with American Sign Language and lip-reading. She’s a constant disappointment to her father, a retired cop fighting his own demons, and the bruises are getting harder to hide.
When Ali accidentally wins a backstage tour with the chart-topping band Tone Deaf, she’s swept back into the world of music. Jace Beckett, the nineteen-year-old lead singer of the band, has a reputation. He’s a jerk and a player, and Ali wants nothing to do with him. But there’s more to Jace than the tabloids let on. When Jace notices Ali’s bruises and offers to help her escape to New York, Ali can’t turn down the chance at freedom and a fresh start. Soon she’s traveling cross-country, hidden away in Jace’s RV as the band finishes their nationwide tour. With the help of Jace, Ali sets out to reboot her life and rediscover the music she once loved.”
What I like about the book, first off, is that it’s clear that the author has done her research on writing her main protagonist, who is deaf. She makes a note right before the story to indicate that ASL has its own grammar and vocabulary, but explains that she put any ASL dialogue in italics due to how limited English is. The author also supplies some links to more information on ASL and Deaf Culture in the back of the book. It’s nice to know that the author has done such research, going into this book, and it’s clear not just in her author notes but also in the story itself.
The main protagonist, Ali, can use ASL and lipread, and she also speaks (something that I notice a lot of people don’t seem to realize about deaf people). What I liked in how she interpreted others interacting with her is that if people speak too fast, she knows it’s too fast for her to lipread, and there is a lot of reading into people’s body and facial expressions as well when we read from her point of view.
It was also interesting to read Jace’s point of view on the whole situation. He’s a hearing person, but knows how to sign. It’s not because he magically knows how to, but it’s mentioned that he had a deaf, now-deceased mother that he would know some signing from. There is also a lot of talk of mental health in the book, particularly around PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and implied depression, and both Jace and Ali have bits of these mental health issues going on with not just them, but also mentioned regarding their parents as well. However, I like how the book makes it clear that being mentally unhealthy does not justify abusive behaviour, too.
What I found interesting was how similar Jace and Ali’s pasts were. Both of them suffered abuse from their fathers, and their mothers are also deceased. They also both know how to sign, and both know music—Ali used to be a prodigy prior to losing her hearing, and Jace is the leader of a band entitled “Tone Deaf,” hence the title of this book. Their familiarity with music and ASL, as well as their similar pasts, help them to bond. Do they have a bunch of communication difficulties in the beginning? Yes. Is Jace a total jerk in the beginning? Yes. But Jace gets better as he recognizes how he’s being a jerk and apologizes, and he and Ali’s communication with each other improve throughout the course of the book, and that helped add to their romantic chemistry together, even going as far as the two of them composing music together.
Both Jace and Ali learn to open up to each other, take risks and learn to understand each other bit by bit, and it was heartwarming to see how they bonded. Both of them also acknowledge the age difference as well as the fact that they bonded quickly over about a week or so in their romance. No sex scenes happen, so that’s a plus (and also probably a good thing given how it would have been illegal for Jace and Ali to do such a thing, given their age difference at the time). However, there are a lot of cuddling and cute moments between them, especially in the latter half of the book. There is also a beta couple in the book in the form of Killer and Arrow, two of Jace’s bandmates, and their interactions were also fun to read.
The one slight pitfall I think the book had was how rushed the ending was. Granted, it was a happy ending, and I’m glad the epilogue was written the way it was, but the one or two chapters before that felt a bit too rushed. Am I glad that Ali’s dad got arrested for his abusing her after Jace pulled all the stops and managed to get six witnesses to testify? Yes. Am I glad Ali’s new legal parents are the parents of her friend Avery? Yes. Am I slightly disappointed that this ending was smashed into 1 to 2 chapters? Yes. However, I am glad that Jace and Ali got their happy ending.
Overall, 4.75 out of 5 stars, with the only pitfall being the rushed last few chapters!