Cover image for Of sound mind
Of sound mind
Ferris, Jean, 1939-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar Straus Giroux, 2001.
Physical Description:
215 pages ; 22 cm
Tired of interpreting for his deaf family and resentful of their reliance on him, high school senior Theo finds support and understanding from Ivy, a new student who also has a deaf parent.
Reading Level:
730 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.1 7.0 53475.

Reading Counts RC High School 5.9 12 Quiz: 26550 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



A poignant novel partially set in a world of silence
High school senior Theo is fluent in two languages: spoken English and sign. His parents and brother, Jeremy, are deaf, but Theo can hear, which has over the years cast him in the role of interpreter for his family. Unfortunately, it's not a welcome duty, especially in the case of his mother, Palma. She is a successful sculptor who, being deeply suspicious of "hearies," expects Theo to act as her business manager. And Jeremy relies on Theo for company and homework help. It's become especially frustrating lately because Theo has met a fascinating new girl at school, Ivy, with whom he wants to spend as much time as possible. Theo's father, Thomas, is the only one who has never burdened him, but that changes when Thomas has a stroke. Palma, frightened and self-absorbed, cannot bring herself to nurse her husband, leaving Theo with the full burden to bear. But with the help of Ivy and some of her friends, Theo is finally able to change his family's dynamics and find time to plan his future.

Author Notes

Jean Ferris is the author of many novels for young people, including Bad , which was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. She lives in Coronado, California.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 6-9. Change with a capital C comes crashing down on a high-school senior, the only hearing member of his family. Forced since childhood into the twin roles of interpreter and, sometimes, caretaker, Theo finds himself doing a bit of wing stretching after meeting Ivy. Ivy can both hear and sign, but she also makes friends easily and is such a self-starter that she's already running a small catering business. Then Theo's loving, affectionate father suffers a stroke, leaving him suddenly in charge of a dependent younger brother, a semi-invalid parent, and, hardest of all, a demanding, high-strung, seriously unstable mother. Although Ferris warns at the outset that this is "not a factual discussion of the complexities of deafness," those complexities twine about every relationship and situation here. But she does more than "inform"; along with a sensitive portrayal of the dynamics within Theo's family, she creates a cast of characters who are shaped by much more than their ability or inability to hear. This is, then, both a thought-provoking study of just when being deaf matters and when it does not, and an unusually rich coming-of-age story that explores universal issues of family responsibility, emotional maturation, love, and loss. --John Peters

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this emotionally taut novel Ferris (Bad; Eight Seconds) chronicles the conflicts of high school senior Theo, caught between the hearing and deaf worlds. Theo, who can hear and who knows sign language, often finds himself in a burdensome and exhausting position in a family in which everyone else is deaf. For example, at age 11 he negotiated the purchase of his parents' house when he "didn't know what a lot of terms he had to use even meant, much less how to sign them to his parents." Theo forms a romantic relationship with a new girl, Ivy, who also signs because she has a deaf father, and his own stoic, peacemaking father suffers a stroke. These two events motivate Theo to assert himself against his domineering mother, Parma. Ferris effectively establishes the manners and mores of the deaf community and American Sign Language, using examples such as Parma's rudeness when she clasps her youngest son's hands to shut him up, and describing the signers' habit of watching facial and body language intently and their suspicions about "hearies." An eclectic and appealing cast of characters, including the bickering retirees Harry and Hazel, propel the drama. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 8 Up-Theo, a high school senior, loves his family but resents his ever-increasing burden of responsibility. As the only hearing person among them, he is pressed into the role of interpreter for his deaf parents and brother. He must rush home from school to make phone calls for his mother or to accompany his father to the doctor's office and translate embarrassing personal information. His spoiled, petulant mother is an artist who believes "hearies" can't be trusted-a troubling concept for Theo, who wonders if she includes him in that category. When his father has a stroke, she falls apart and the teen's plans for college are threatened. He's also wrapped up in a new romance with Ivy, who speaks both of his languages because her father is deaf. Theo's dilemma is poignantly drawn, but the end of the story will prove unsatisfying to many readers. Theo's problems are too easily resolved by the appearance of a quirky elderly couple who learn sign language almost overnight. While the protagonist does come to understand his mother's fears and gains insight into her personality, he never really confronts her. Even the eventual death of his father lacks strong emotional impact. However, for those teens with a keen interest, this is a fascinating window into the deaf culture and the intricacies of sign language.-Miranda Doyle, San Francisco Public Library (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.