Reviewed by Helyce
I heard about this book when Netgalley was doing an early arc giveaway to the first 50 requestors. I didn’t win an advanced copy, but I was intrigued by the blurb so I purchased this book when it was released. I haven’t read a YA book in a long time, but I’m so glad that I picked this one up.
Will Porter has been blind since birth. His parents were not too over protective and he initially was mainstreamed with sighted students. That is, until an unfortunate “incident” as it is referred to in the story, with another sighted student. Will’s parents were so upset that Will might be taken advantage of in any way, that they decided he should go to a school with other sight impaired students. When Will turns 16, however, Will decides that he’d like to attend a regular school and his parents agree.
On his first day he accidentally touches a girl’s breast, sits on a boy’s lap in the lunchroom and makes a girl cry because she thinks he’s staring at her. He also makes friends that first day with those same people;Cecily (girl who cried), Nick (lap boy), Ion and Whiteford-who are all on the Academic Quiz Team.
In the course of the story Will learns of an experimental surgery that could possibly give him sight. It involves stem cells and transplants and I thought that just the right amount of medical jargon was used and information given, considering the story is for young adults. As with any surgery, there are risks–the main one being that his body could reject the transplants and he would have done everything for nothing.
Will is portrayed as an intelligent young man whose lack of sight had no bearing on his outgoing and friendly personality. Of course, having never been sighted, his other senses have been fine tuned to help him along the way. He has a fantastic sense of humor and has no problem making fun of himself when the situation calls for it. The author explores his relationship to his parents in a realistic way. Will wants to be independent in every way he can be and he knows that in order to really learn how to do this, he has to immerse himself in the sighted world–thus his move from a sight impaired school to a regular school. He easily makes friends with a great group of kids who were quick to include him and seamlessly adjusted to Will’s needs without making him feel any different after only a few small faux paux.
While the surgery and the probability of sight are a major focus in this story, I really loved the important messages the author lent along the way. Sundquist explores the budding relationship between Will and Cecily in a lovely way. Cecily is quite shy, but with Will she seems to blossom. She can be herself with Will and in the course of their getting to know each other, the reader easily infers that there is something about her looks that is the cause of her shyness.
When the surgery becomes an option for Will, his mother pushes and pushes for him to take the leap. But Will is cautious and he wants to be the one to make the decision to have the surgery. Will’s father, on the other hand, is not so sure the surgery is the right thing to do. He wants to make sure that Will makes an informed decision and he relays the following information about some prior patients who had the surgery”
“The world didn’t look as good as everyone told them it would. One of the most famous cases, a man in England, was devastated to discover that both he and his wife were not as good-looking as he had always assumed they were. He was in otherwise good health, but he died just nineteen months after seeing for the first time. Apparently, he simply lost his will to live.”
I try to reverse the dark tone of the story. “Dad, is this your way of telling me I’m really ugly?”
Throughout the story, the author repeatedly shares the message that looks aren’t everything. That there is always more to a person than what you see on the outside. That a person’s worth should not be based on how they look. Will being blind means that his impressions of people have absolutely nothing to do with how a person looks and it’s extremely enlightening.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story. The interactions Will has with teachers and other students were often amusing. And while I would love to hint at Will’s decision and it’s outcome, that would just be too spoilery.
Serious and emotional moments mixed with subtle humor, Sundquist does a great job of bringing us on Will’s journey.