Rating: High Four
Who I'd Recommend to: Fans of Wonder, anything Jennifer L. Holm, the Crossover, Brown Girl Dreaming, and Flora and Ulysses.
Going to school and making new friends can be tough. But going to school and making new friends while wearing a bulky hearing aid strapped to your chest? That requires superpowers! In this funny, poignant graphic novel memoir, author/illustrator Cece Bell chronicles her hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences with the Phonic Ear, a very powerful—and very awkward—hearing aid. The Phonic Ear gives Cece the ability to hear—sometimes things she shouldn’t—but also isolates her from her classmates. She really just wants to fit in and find a true friend, someone who appreciates her as she is. After some trouble, she is finally able to harness the power of the Phonic Ear and become “El Deafo, Listener for All.” And more importantly, declare a place for herself in the world and find the friend she’s longed for.
However, this book isn't all perfect, either. There were a few things that bothered me, just a little. For one, there was a slight episodic feel to it - Cece gets a best friend, the friend starts out perfectly fine, and then begins to get on her nerves. Then Cece finds a new friend, and it starts all over again until she finally finds "the true friend." I realize that I mentioned this as being a positive to the story - the fact that El Deafo is also about finding a perfect friend - but it could've been told in a less episodic way. And the whole thing with Cece getting a crush on Mike Miller, her neighbor, just didn't work for me. Yes, it was humorous at first, but it started to take away from the story. I especially didn't like it when Mike convinces Cece to use her hearing aid to make trouble in class at the end of the book. This showed, very clearly, peer pressure, yet it was portrayed as a good thing in this book. I get it - it was important to Cece that she was finally accepted for who she was. But I have a feeling there was another way this could've been shown.
Overall, I really did enjoy this book (I've already reread it) but there were a few problems with the message being shown at the end of the book.