Future Girl by Asphyxia

A review by Nalini Haynes

Piper is Future Girl and she is Deaf. The nerves to her ears stopped working when she was about 3 years old. She grew up in a hearing family with her mom, Irene McBride, desperate for Piper to Fit In With Normal People. Any admission of difference, any request for equity, Irene interprets as a failure on her part.

Then fuel shortages shatter Australian society, changing it forever.

There’s not enough food. The processed food Organicore sells to people is suddenly twice the price and half as available and yet the government destroys food gardens, keeping people reliant on the corporation.

Piper meets Marley, a CODA (child of a Deaf Adult), who uses Auslan (Australian sign language. I read somewhere that hearing people decided that Deaf people should not use a universal language). Marley’s mom Robbie is Deaf and is a kick-ass self-sufficient gardener willing to teach Piper how to grow her own food. But only on condition that Piper learn sign language so they can communicate.

Marley is hot. Very very hot. Things get complicated…

Representation

Asphyxia, the author, is Deaf herself. She grew up Oral like Piper, which means people expected her to wear hearing aids, to speak, to fit in. Later she discovered the Deaf community and learnt to sign.

I suspect Piper’s journey regarding connecting with the Deaf community and learning to sign run parallel with Asphyxia’s.

What surprised me were the many parallels between Deaf experiences and vision impaired experiences. But that’s something I intend to go into in an essay with spoiler warnings, not in this review.

Self-sufficiency

As Piper learns to be self-sufficient, she draws diagrams and makes notes in her journal that Asphyxia shares with us. Piper educates us, helping us begin gardening and self-sufficiency ourselves.

I grew up in a family that had aspirations towards alternative lifestyle but lacked follow through and, I suspect, knowledge. Instead of half-assed makeshift solutions, Asphyxia seems to actually have self-sufficiency skills and sustainable gardening knowledge. I applaud her edutainment.

Book design

Future Girl has a textured cover: it feels like linen-textured paper coated in plastic with an embossed title. While reading I kept running my fingertips over the cover.

Future Girl looks like a scrapbook. It’s Piper’s scrapbook and she’s telling the story in her scrapbook. Each page looks distressed, has colorful edging and decorative patterns. Some pages look like text is written on paper attached with washi tape. Others look like Piper applied zentangle doodles or texture stamps around the edges, or royal damask paper backs the text or… Each page is different. I kept touching the page, wanting to feel the textures.

My only complaint is that, for a vision impaired person, some of the text is very difficult to read. The smallest text is possible via a desktop magnifier of course. But the hand written text – even when very brief – always took me a good minute or two to interpret. I read the paper version of this book so I don’t know what the electronic version would be like. If you’re vision impaired like me or worse, I recommend a support person just in case.

While I think Future Girl would be kick-ass in all media, and an audiobook should solve problems of interpretation for vision impaired people, I can’t help but think missing the beautiful paper artefact would be a loss.

The verdict

Future Girl is a speculative fiction novel set in an apocalyptic near-future in Melbourne, Australia. Piper is finding her place in the world, finding her tribe, and learning survival skills. She takes us on her journey, sharing what it’s like to be different. Sharing what it is to be forced to fit a little box and to break free. Much of her journey is relatable to my experience as a vision impaired person except vision impairment breeds isolation not community. Piper is inspiring but not in an “inspiration porn” way. She’s inspiring in a coming-of-age, coming-out way. Future Girl is a must-read. Incorporate this novel into high school and university curriculums with appropriate anti-patronizing awareness training. And it’s PRETTY. SO VERY PRETTY.

I highly recommend Future Girl. 5 stars.

There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake is about a Deaf teenager and It. Is. Brilliant.

If you’re looking for YA featuring disabled characters, I recommend The Extraordinaries by T J Klune and Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal by Anna Whateley.

Book details

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
ISBN: 9781760294373
Imprint: A & U Children (Allen & Unwin)
Released: September 2020
Format: Paperback – C format, 384 pages
Age: 13 – 16 (rubbish. It’s excellent for adults.)
Subject: Science fiction (Children’s / Teenage)

Future girl: a girl ponders her art, with a cross over her ear indicating she is Deaf