You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P! by Alex Gino

Published: 25 September 2018 (print)/25 September 2018 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Scholastic Press/Scholastic Audio
Pages: 256/ 4 hrs and 59 mins
Narrator: Alex Gino, Nora Hunter and Blythe Auffarth
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★  – 2 Stars

Jilly thinks she’s figured out how life works. But when her sister Emma is born Deaf, she realizes how much she still has to learn.

A big fantasy reader, Jilly connects with another fan, Derek, who is a Deaf Black ASL user. She goes to Derek for advice but doesn’t always know the best way to ask for it and makes some mistakes along the way. Jilly has to step back to learn to be an ally, a sister, and a friend, understanding that life works in different ways for different people, and that being open to change can make you change in the best possible ways.

Coming off the back of Gino’s other works I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book but I was surprised I didn’t love it as much as the others. While it covered important topics and explored a learning experience around important issues I couldn’t find a lot of love for the book overall.

As a character Jilly is young and naïve at 13. The way Gino has written her is hard to like, but you can see her good intentions behind her actions even if they’re wrong. Her perspective of her life and family as an only child becoming a sister and the challenges that brings was interesting and Gino gave her a good voice in that regard to capture her confusion, her good intentions and her sense of confusion as she navigates new ground.

I liked the online environment set up for the Roses and Thorns books Jilly loves and how the discussion forum is designed in the realm of the books. If you can get past that at 13 Jilly finds the ear of a person attractive, you can see how the friendships she’s formed on the forum are comforting but also how only knowing someone online can change how you see them because you’re only provided with the information they want you to see which can be different to who they really are.

Primarily this is a story about deafness, but it also covers racism too. I guess if you look at the surrounding characters like profoundinoaktown (aka Derek) and Alesha to be there to educate Jilly it helps but it isn’t their job to educate her about the Deaf or black community and in terms of story that is acknowledged in a small way which is commendable.

Jilly makes mistakes and learns from them, often when she is trying to help or through misunderstanding. I liked how Gino didn’t turn it into a huge fight or major issue, Jilly was wrong, she is corrected by someone who knows better and she accepts that even if she is a little hurt since she thought she was helping. Taking the time to listen to people when they tell you you’re doing or saying the wrong things is a great lesson to put in this story, especially one dealing with race and disability.

Having said that, there are other issues with this story away from the Big Important Topics that ruin this book without needing to delve deeper into meaning and intent and rights of authors. I felt the content, writing, and the characters all fell short. Even with Gino’s acknowledgement about their connection to the Deaf community it still feels like it is missing more substance. There’s a lot of unnecessary and annoying repetition around Jilly’s sandwiches and the conversations between Maisy and Jilly’s dad are incredibly irritating, and while I can see how Gino is trying to create a world around Jilly and these are the factors in it, it was too much at times to tolerate.

Despite the positive message I couldn’t get past the tedious repetition or the flat, one dimensional characters that are easily forgettable. In conjunction with the annoying writing which having to experience as an audiobook made it more noticeable and grinding, this story is average at best which is a shame considering Gino’s other works.

You can purchase You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P! via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

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