I saw this adaptation of the Pied Piper of Hamelin a while back in a publication I get from work. It had a good review and I saw Jay Asher was one of the writers. I’ve read and enjoyed his YA novel, 13 Reasons Why, so I thought I’d give this a go.

The small village of Hamelin has a big problem. Their rat population has exploded, and they’re eating all the food. The local rat-catcher is quickly overwhelmed, and the populace worried they won’t have enough to eat in the coming winter. A well-dressed man comes to down, claiming he can get rid of all the rats. All he does is play his flute and they follow him – but his services are far from free. The townspeople are skeptical, but agree to his outrageous demands. He catches the eye of Maggie, a teenage girl living in the village. She is deaf, so is also an outcast, and she feels she’s found a kindred spirit in the Piper. But he has a dark side, and he will bring terrible pain to both her and the village.

I was terribly disappointed in this one. The pacing was choppy; there was some indication of time skips, but not all of them were explained, leaving the reader to figure it out. Characterization was alllll over the place. One moment, our main character is wandering the woods, dreaming of the man she wants to find and marry, and the next she is totally tuned into a very practical household task. This happens multiple times throughout the book and was very irritating. I realize they’re working off a very vague folk tale, but the ending to the original tale is more tied-up and satisfying than the end of this graphic novel.

I’m not entirely convinced Maggie’s deafness was handled correctly, or even there at all. She reads lips, and talks (it’s revealed that her deafness came as a result of a childhood accident, so she does know how to speak), but her speech patterns and bubbles are the same as everyone elses’. There are precious little context clues. Sometimes kids throw rocks at her to get her attention, or sneak up behind her, but that could happen to anyone. If I were to write a deaf character into a graphic novel, I would add more people correcting her pronunciation, and make her speech bubbles wobbly, maybe with a bit of a stutter, to indicate she’s not confident in speaking. I’d also add, you know, some sign language? Somehow??? Had I not been told by the book jacket she was deaf, I would have thought she was just a dreamy girl, totally oblivious to her surroundings.

I cannot fathom at all why this was so well-reviewed. Skip it entirely. It’s more infuriating than it is rewarding.

– Kathleen

Asher, Jay, Jessica Freeburg, and Jeff Stokely. Piper. 2017.

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