Signs We Don’t See by Carrie Beamer

Signs We Don’t See by Carrie Beamer
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Young Adult (14 – 18 y.o.), Romance, Historical
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Etta Litali has grown accustom to the superstitious behavior that comes along with being in an Italian family. But when her dad begins to spend his nights stealing signs from every city pole within three miles of their home, her house becomes overrun with dirty poster boards and the neighbors begin to notice. Stressed her dad will end up on Oprah as the man who hoards stolen signs, Etta distracts herself with a boy named Jordan. Despite the ban Jordan’s clique has on Etta, their connection grows into something special. Jordan starts to miss school and disappear leaving Etta confused and wondering if their relationship was ever real. Knowing Jordan is hiding something, Etta has to find a way to show Jordan he can trust her or she will lose him. The only way to do that is to reveal to him that she’s been keeping a secret too.

Everyone struggles with something.

This was such a compassionate take on how one working class family handled mental illness in the 1980s. Obviously, the medical treatments and community understanding of the disease Etta’s father was eventually diagnosed with was not as advanced as it would be today. It was fascinating to me to see how everyone tried to understand what was going on with him. Their reactions were as true to the era they lived in as they were true to the individual personalities of the family members, friends, and medical professionals who were trying to help in the best ways they knew how.

It would have been useful to have a little more time spent developing the romantic plot, especially during the last few scenes. While I appreciated the slow, natural pacing of it during the beginning and middle of the story, I did think there was space to explore it further once the main conflicts had been resolved and Etta had enough emotional energy to devote to lighthearted matters like these. This is a minor criticism of something I thought was otherwise well written. If the author ever writes a sequel, I hope the romantic subplot will be given more attention then as it really was a delightful part of this character’s personal growth.

I absolutely adored Etta’s relationship with her best friend, Nessa. Their personalities and interests complemented each other beautifully. The only thing better than seeing how they used their strengths to improve each other’s lives was how loyal they were. No matter what they were going through, they were always there for each other.

Signs We Don’t See was a thought-provoking read that I’d recommend to anyone who is interested in mental illness or 1980s culture.

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