Hear Me

8 February 2019

“Hear Me” (Breaking the Rules Series)
by H.R. Hobbs
Published by H.R. Hobbs
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
ISBN 9-780995-344815 $15.00

In Hear Me, Assiniboia, SK teacher-turned-writer H.R. Hobbs’ follow-up to her middle years’ novel See Me, Grade Eight protagonist Hannah evolves from a reclusive and bullied girl who tries to remain invisible into an assertive gal who leads the charge for justice when friends are victimized. Through realistic scenes that move between home and school settings in fictional “Acadia,” Hobbs’ readers witness the ins and outs of Hannah’s troubled adolescent life, and learn how speaking up against bullying makes a tremendous difference, even if the-powers-that-be aren’t eager to hear the message.

Readers of the first in this series of novels know that journal-writing Hannah’s set strict “rules” for herself: “1. Don’t make anyone mad. 2. If I’m invisible, no one can hurt me. 3. Keep my problems to myself. 4. No one sees my writing!” In the past, Hannah’s angered her father and been hurt by classmates. Unlike her easy-going – but also bullied – friend, Chip, Hannah’s very sensitive to these attacks, and she’s determined to do something about them.

In this new novel she acquires a few more friends, and, as in See Me, she experiences how powerful the written word can be, both as a therapeutic activity and as a way to find one’s voice and use it for the greater good. It’s satisfying to see a character grow like this, and it would be affirming for young readers who also struggle with bullying and poor self-confidence to read about Hannah’s progress.

Hobbs has done an especially sound job of characterizing Hannah, whose desire to remain invisible extends to her clothing. She attends a Hallowe’en dance dressed as Obi-Wan Kenobi from “Star Wars”, with an “infinity scarf” covering her head. Even her friend, cheerleader Trudy, recognizes that the old, insecure Hannah sometimes lurks just beneath the surface. “Hannah, why are you still hiding?” she asks. I remembered my own junior high dances when Trudy says: “Why does the student council even bother with dances? This is basically just the lunchroom with costumes.” And in descriptions of school hallways, ie: “I had to fight my way against the tide of students going to class,” one can almost hear those locker doors being slammed and feel the body-jostling.

It was encouraging to read that Hannah’s English teacher invited a spoken word poet into the classroom for a workshop; writers in schools are a win-win for both the students and the often severely economically-challenged writers. In this scene the poet shares a poetry slam video featuring Canadian Shane Koyczon’s performance of “Troll,” a piece about internet bullying. (As soon as I finish writing this, I’ll be checking that out.) I also appreciated that the invited poet reminded Hannah and her classmates that “poetry is art for the listener” … “while it means something to the poet, once it has left the poet’s mouth it belongs to the listeners to interpret for themselves”. Superb advice.

Hannah’s story feels far from over. See Me. Hear Me. Where will Hobbs take her next?


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