Wednesday, January 4, 2017

LOVE AND FIRST SIGHT BY JOSH SUNDQUIST - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, this time it is Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist. Thanks so much to Hachette Canada for sending me an ARC of this book for an honest review, as always, all opinions are my own.


This year, I want to read more diverse books, and one of the major categories of diverse books I don't have a lot of experience with is those that deal with physical disabilities. I was unsure, going into this book, how it would be, reading a perspective of a blind person. I was very pleasantly surprised by the depth of Sundquist's writing style, I really felt as though I was in the main character's head.

The basic premise of this book revolves around Will, a teenager who was born blind and had previously gone to a school for the blind. He has decided, however, that he is going to attend a mainstream school. On his first day, he encounters an overbearingly helpful vice principal, accidently gropes a girl going down the stairs, and sets another girl off crying. Eventually, he finds a group of people to sit with at lunch and they become fast friends. One girl, Cecily gets paired up with Will for a project and the two become fast friends.

A few weeks into the semester, Will gets the opportunity for an experimental surgery that could give him sight. But he soon learns that the world he knew is different than the one in front of him. After a major setback and an event that shakes his and Cecily's friendship to the core, Will begins to question not only his decisions but also the trustworthiness of those around him.

Firstly, I want to talk about Will's narration and his voice. He is hilarious. I'm not sure what I was expecting from a blind narrator, but Will was not it at all - in the best way possible. I was laughing from the first page and I was immediately alerted to my own preconceived notions I didn't know I had. I was shocked at how laid back Will was. In my mind, I was expecting his narration to be filled with the thoughts sighted people take for granted. I was expecting him to be concentrating on remembering how many steps it was to the bathroom, not making blind-person jokes with the VP. And I immediately felt horrible about that. From the very first page, I was already asking questions about how these ideas got put in my head. I have never met a blind person before, but I should have been more open-minded. Will's humour shouldn't be any different from any other narrator I've read just because he is blind.

Even know, after finishing the book, I am struck by how unfamiliar I am with those who are blind, and how my assumptions are so off.

A lot of the book deals with this prejudice of sighted people and an insensitivity to the blind. Even Will's well-intending friends struggled with this. They would describe something in relation to something Will has no perception of. Will goes to a restaurant and asks for a menu, even though the waitress had already placed it in front of him. After snapping back asking if he was blind, the waitress felt instant regret. But this got me thinking about how we treat people. Even if Will wasn't blind, that's still an insensitive comment to make. This book looks at both sighted and unsighted people, and how they are treated, as well as how they treat each other.

I went into this book having read the synopsis a while ago, knowing it was about a blind person but not remembering that the narrator was blind. So when I started it, I was momentarily thrown by the emersion into Will's world. He was describing little things that I, a sighted person, take for granted every day. Shaking someone's hand, something Will can recognize by sound and conversational cues, but something that is presumed he cannot understand. Will relies on his other senses to help him, but he also relies on memory and technology. He counts his steps, he uses his phone to record, play back and memorize information. There was one point where he was being shown the school and was told to just backtrack in his mental map. Except he didn't have a mental map because he has no idea what the school looks like, just the number of steps it takes to get somewhere.

I think as sighted people, we often don't realize how much we rely on sight. And there is a certain about of terror in knowing that without sight, I'm not sure, personally, I would be able to do the things I do every day. This book does a great job of creating an environment where, without my sight, I would be lost.

The romance in this book was good, I pretty much knew going in that there would be a connection between will and someone, and once things got going it made sense. But I'm not sure it was an integral part of the story, I didn't get as deep of a connection as Will seemed to feel, but I appreciated it nonetheless. There is also a mini-road trip (squeee), which I loved and that make everything more romantic.

Overall, a great story that I think everyone should read.