After Zero by Christina Collins

5 stars Middle School/Children’s Chapter

I didn’t even know they had a name for it but it all makes sense after reading this novel, Selective Mutism.  An anxiety disorder, where a child speaks in a normal fashion at home (or any comfortable, relaxed, safe environment) but in some social situations, that same child, will refuse to speak. When Elise is unleashed into public schooling, she finds that speaking can get her in trouble and perhaps being silent is the way to go.

Elise had heard stories from Mel, her neighbor about how great school was.  Mel talked about school and her “school friends,” so when Elise’s mom quit homeschooling her, Elise was excited to finally be able to go to middle school.

Unfortunately, school turned out not to be as much fun as she thought.  It wasn’t long before Elise found herself in hot water.  School was a new social situation for Elise and she didn’t know the rules.  She wasn’t hurting her peers on purpose but no one had told her the etiquette and now, Elise decided it was just easier to not say anything.  It was better to be quiet than to say the wrong thing so, off went her voice and on, went her tally marks in her book.

I could feel the stress as Elise struggled with dodging answering the questions that were addressed in the classroom at school.  She knew the answers yet to answer them would create a tally in her book, the book that she felt needed to be blank.  Even when her peers addressed her or harassed her for her silence, she felt safe under the cover of her book. She wanted no tally marks, and every day she worked towards that goal.

I liked that she didn’t run back into the safe arms of homeschooling and that she continued to try other things at school, she wasn’t a quitter.  There’s a bit of fantasy in the book as Elise becomes intrigued by an object at school. I thought this gave her something else to focus on while she was there. I think this book is marvelous and I feel that Christina Collins did an excellent job explaining this disorder.