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Publisher's Summary

A middle-grade debut that's a heartrending coming-of-age tale, perfect for fans of Bridge to Terabithia and Counting by 7s.

Eleven-year-old Riley believes in the whispers, magical fairies that will grant you wishes if you leave them tributes. Riley has a lot of wishes. He wishes bullies at school would stop picking on him. He wishes Dylan, his eighth-grade crush, liked him, and Riley wishes he would stop wetting the bed. But most of all, Riley wishes for his mom to come back home. She disappeared a few months ago, and Riley is determined to crack the case. He even meets with a detective, Frank, to go over his witness statement time and time again. 

Frustrated with the lack of progress in the investigation, Riley decides to take matters into his own hands. So he goes on a camping trip with his friend Gary to find the whispers and ask them to bring his mom back home. But Riley doesn't realize the trip will shake the foundation of everything he believes in forever.

©2019 Greg Howard (P)2019 Listening Library

Critic Reviews

“This taut, moving tale delves beyond loss into issues of sexuality, conformity and self-acceptance...a masterful exploration into the power of storytelling but also its dangers, including self-denial and escapism.” (The New York Times Book Review)

“With sensitivity and skill, Howard handles themes of sexual identity, self-worth, loss and friendship.” (The Washington Post)

“Howard’s personal story helps create a fictional narrative both realistic and relevant, while also calling on the fantastical magic of the imagination.... A tale of family, friendship and loss, filled with magic and heart.” (The Associated Press)  

“A heartbreaking, beguiling debut.... This poignant journey through the badlands of grief is crammed with tenderness, wit and warmth.” (The Guardian)

Featured Article: The Best Family Audiobooks for All Ages


Sharing stories with your family can leave a lasting impression. As a parent, you probably remember the magic of having a book read aloud to you as a kid, and family audiobooks offer that same experience for your own children. Whether you’re looking to help increase literacy or discover the joy of group listening, our list has some of the best family audiobooks, from best sellers to newcomer favorites. Here are the best family audiobooks.

What listeners say about The Whispers

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  • Overall
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Enjoyable Read. It's really touching.

You might shed a tear or two. Expected the story to go one way, but goes another.

3 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Internalized homophobia with no positive resolution

I really, really wanted to love this book. We need more middle grade books with gay protagonists, and more POC side characters. But I could not even like this book.

The first person narrator has so many layers of internalized homophobia that he parallels his struggle with wetting the bed to his “condition” of “wanting to kiss boys” (he never uses the word gay a single time throughout the entire novel). He is eventually “cured” of the peeing problem, but never resolves his fear of others knowing he is “funny” (his word) and his constant memories of the pastors and religious adults around him teaching him that he is a sinner who need to repent (and he does “repent” although this never “cures” him). Absolutely awful to put this internalized prejudice in the voice of an eleven year old narrator and never provide a resolution for readers.

Spoilers:

This book is ABOUT dealing with GRIEF and the DEATH of a parent. It includes fat-shaming of the black best-friend-side-kick with the barest hint of an apology and gross consistent fat-shaming descriptions. It includes weird religious overtones where the narrator repeats that he does not believe God is answering his prayers but continues to spout all of the religious teachings he has grown up with (so neither a positive or negative representation of faith).

I was so disappointed in this book.

7 people found this helpful

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Amazing Author

Call me bias, as I personally know Greg Howard, but this is one of the best books I have heard. With 3 books under his belt, I cannot choose a favorite. This is a story that is close to home for him and a reality he may have lived in his imagination as a child. This is a great young adult books and would say a great book for any age. Thank you Greg for sharing your stories.

1 person found this helpful

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Better Than Some Reviews Suggest

As someone who grew up different from the other boys in a small, rural, southern town, all of this felt familiar, authentic, and true in that sort of way that makes it go beyond simple fiction. Riley's personal hang-ups are all very much a product of his age, orientation, situation, setting, and potentially something more - I feel like he might represent more than one spectrum (give it a listen while thinking about that and it might improve it for you) - and those from his setting he seems to be on his way to growing beyond. We're supposed to be viewing this story through the eyes of an 11-year-old. The complaints I read in other reviews seem to be missing some of this perspective. The story is fantastic, well-paced, with great illustrations surrounding its core, and the narrator helped bring it to life in a way that guarantees I will listen again despite knowing the twists and turns. I think this, like many older kid/YA books, should be savored and discussed together - with you parents reminding your own children (and yourselves) how unconditionally dear and precious they are to you.

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Had a little bit of a wierd focus at some points

At the end in like chapter 25 about Kenny from Kentucky I feel like that makes it not appropriate for elementary school students even 5th grade I would say 7th grade but overall the book was great