Everything about Jonah is unexpected. On the first day of school, he sits next to April, when he could have chosen to sit with the popular girl. He turns down an invitation to join the school team and declares he'd rather paint. He encourages April to develop her musical talent and shrugs off the bullies that torment them.
April isn't surprised to find herself falling for Jonah. The unexpected part is when he falls for her too.
But the giddy happiness of their first romance begins to fade when Jonah's unpredictability begins to take a darker turn. April understands that her boyfriend is haunted by a painful memory, but his sudden mood swings worry her. She can't explain his growing fear of cellphones, electric keyboards, and of sounds that no one else can hear. Still, no matter what happens, April is sure that she'll always stand by him.
Until Jonah finally breaks and is committed to a psychiatric ward.
Until schizophrenia changes everything.
Though everyone urges her to let him go, April stays true to Jonah. But as the boy she adores begins to disappear in front of her, she has to face her worst fear: that her love may not be enough to save him.
Sometimes you read a book and you immediately completely fall in love with it (as with Anna and the French Kiss for me), but sometimes it takes a while before you start loving the story. That's what happened with Your Voice Is All I Hear; I kinda forgot what the whole story was about so I started reading with no preconceptions whatsoever.
And that's when really beautiful reading moments can happen. Though Your Voice Is All I Hear seems to start off as a typical high school romance novel, you soon get a weird feeling while reading it. Something is off. Jonah is not right. This whole romance is just not making sense and the more you read, the stronger that feeling gets, until you find out he has schizophrenia and suddenly everything you read makes sense.
What makes this book so amazing is Leah Scheier's writing. Mental illnesses in fiction is always risky - you want to make it realistic, but at the same time also dramatic enough that there is a story. Scheier walks this line perfectly; yes, there is drama but at the core of it, Jonah's schizophrenia just feels so very real. I must admit that I was clueless about schizophrenia before this book (I knew that people heard voices but that's about it) and I know so much more thanks to this book.
That's what I want literature to do for me. I was completely sucked into this story and felt everything April was feeling and when I was done reading, I realised I also learned new things without being aware of it. it's not a text book on schizophrenia, but I feel like I understand better how incredibly hard it is to live with it and how much broader it is than 'just hearing voices'. By letting the reader see Jonah's transition into schizophrenia, you really become aware how much it changes a person and how hard it is for everyone around them.
So even though this is April's story of standing by Jonah, for me this really was Jonah's story. His character touched me in so many different ways and I felt so heartbroken for the pain he was going through. Yes, the book reads like a romance novel at the beginning, but when you finish it, it makes complete sense why it does. Jonah was just like you and I. Jonah was an average YA male character. Jonah goes through a remarkable journey in the book that shows the contrast with that beginning and will break your heart in every single chapter.