Hurt Go Happy

Hurt Go Happy, by Ginny Rorby, is a touching story about a stubborn girl and a chimpanzee.

Joey is 70% deaf. She has been since she was six years old. She, her mother, her stepfather and her half-brother live together in a house in a forest that she can’t hear. She hates school but overall enjoys life. However, there is one thing she wants to do—learn sign language—and that is the thing her mother is most firm about not letting her learn.

Then, one day, when Joey is in the woods, she comes across a (slightly quirky and) kindly old man named Dr. Charlie who lives with a chimpanzee named Sukari (which means “sugar-bottom” in Swahili). And the both of them speak sign language.

Joey soon becomes fast friends with them, despite her mother’s adamant protests (they’re both quite hotheaded and obstinate). With Dr. Charlie’s help, she ends up at a school for the deaf and learns how to speak sign language. And something happens that lands Sukari in an animal testing facility.

It will take all of Joey’s stubbornness, determination, and confidence to save this loving chimpanzee, and she’ll have to learn a few things about herself and the man who was her father before she’s done.

Hurt Go Happy is an incredible testament to humanity in multiple ways. It says something incredibly depressing about us that we test things on animals, and the scene in the testing facility is quite graphic and disturbing. However, this book is also a testament to hope, and love. Joey and her mother have many conflicts but eventually overcome all of them. Likewise, Sukari and the world are often at odds, even though she has shown herself to be nearly as intelligent as Joey’s young brother, and just as, if not more, caring. Most of the world doesn’t speak Sukari’s language. But Joey does, and she’s the only one who can save her.

Ginny Rorby tells this story beautifully, leaving images, both good and bad, imprinted on your mind. One that stuck out the most to me was when we see Sukari in the testing facility. She was sitting in her cage, rocking back and forth, signing, “No hurt. Hug, hug.” But of course, none of the scientists know sign language and they are as deaf to her as the deaf would be to their language.

Ginny Rorby is a fantastic author overall, but this was my favorite of her books. She sends such a strong message about animal testing, about humans, about relationships, about love. This is a very educational book, but it teaches—about being deaf, about sign language, about conflict between mothers and daughters, about all sorts of relationships, about determination, and, as I said, about love—subtly, in a way that doesn’t detract at all from the story, so that you emerge both with that good-book feeling and with a wealth of new information if you were previously naive to these things.


You feel like you are there. It’s not overly eloquent, but it is touching and cutting and soothing. 5/5

Character Depth/Development

There weren’t a large number of characters in this book, and of those that are in it, Joey being deaf and all, you don’t hear many of them speak. Also, for large parts of it Joey is alone or with strangers. Joey does develop and does have depth. Sukari doesn’t really develop that much, but she does develop, and while she doesn’t have a ton of depth, she is an animal. All of the other characters have implied depth but there isn’t enough time to really get into it in most cases, which is OK, because it isn’t really necessary to the story. The story is also about solitude and exclusion, and so the characters’ voices are not important. 5/5


The plot is strong, not implausible, and while occasionally predictable, not in a jarring way. 5/5

Je Ne C’est Quois

Hurt Go Happy  speaks with raw intensity, and while this world is my world, it is not a world I’d necessarily like to live in. This is very impressive. And yet, somehow, it’s also a world I would like to live in: a world of secret languages and talking animals—this book is full of the magic of real life, the magic that’s there if we only bothered to look. When I finished, I felt satiated—and also mournful, that it was over, that that was it. It ended with completion, but you didn’t want it to end at all. 5/5

            Note: This might look vaguely unimpressive. But take a step back. This book got 100%, not 110%. If you’re reading this in order—so you started with NOTW, then read Mistborn, and then came here—you should know that anything, although I’m writing these in a vague approximation of my order of favorites (it’s more what pops into my head), will feel slightly anticlimactic compared to the first 2 books.

If you’re reading this thinking, Um, duh, it got 5/5 ratings everywhere—why would that be unimpressive?, congratulations. 😛


One Comment on “Hurt Go Happy”

  1. Chels says:

    looks like a good read!

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