★★★★ Goodbye Tchaikovsky by Michael Thal centers on twelve-year-old David Rothman, a talented violin player. When he suddenly goes deaf as part of a family curse, he is faced with the loss of playing music. In shock, David pulls away from the world in anger. However, the bonds David has with his family, particularly his deaf uncle, not only save his life, but help him to adapt to deaf life. David emerges from his shell slowly; he learns American Sign Language with his deaf uncle first, and then transfers to a new school for the deaf. With the ability to communicate, David begins the search for a new passion, one that inspires him in the way playing music once did. Goodbye Tchaikovsky is a coming-of-age novel, as it covers David’s pre-teen and teen years until he heads to college. Michael Thal’s writing comes off the page with honesty and emotion, capturing moments of David’s confusion and anger with precision. Rather than David finding a quick fix to his sudden deafness, David adapts to it, making it an opportunity to grow and thrive. Thal’s use of friendship also adds power to the novel; David loses and gains friends throughout the story, and those friendships inspire and support David as he grows up. David’s friend Glenn shows the most growth in the novel. Their friendship ends when David goes deaf, but rekindles when Glenn not only learns ASL to communicate with David, but also decides to become an interpreter.
Despite the strong aspects of this novel, it falls short in other places. The timeline of the novel feels rushed; David only is in high school with a girlfriend for thirteen pages. In addition, David’s relationship with music is strong, but it hardly impacts him as he continues to grow up. This detail goes with David’s deafness as a family curse; if the curse runs in the family, so should the ability to sign. Overall, Goodbye Tchaikovsky is an excellent, well-paced read, perfect for a person looking for a new YA, coming-of-age novel.
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