I picked up this book during a period when I needed something light to read. Something very very light.
And I’m not really sure that’s what I got.
Love and First Sight
By: Josh Sundquist
In his debut novel, YouTube personality and author of We Should Hang Out Sometime Josh Sundquist explores the nature of love, trust, and romantic attraction.
On his first day at a new school, blind 16-year-old Will Porter accidentally groped a girl on the stairs, sat on another student in the cafeteria, and
somehow drove a classmate to tears. High school can only go up from here, right?
As Will starts to find his footing, he develops a crush on a charming, quiet girl named Cecily. Then an unprecedented opportunity arises: an experimental
surgery that could give Will eyesight for the first time in his life. But learning to see is more difficult than Will ever imagined, and he soon discovers
that the sighted world has been keeping secrets. It turns out Cecily doesn’t meet traditional definitions of beauty – in fact everything he’d heard about
her appearance was a lie engineered by their so-called friends to get the two of them together. Does it matter what Cecily looks like? No, not really.
But then why does Will feel so betrayed?
Told with humor and breathtaking poignancy, Love and First Sight is a story about how we relate to each other and the world around us.
What I Loved
As I read this book in audio format, I loved the narrator. he became Will. With the exception of a really horrible Italian accent for one of the characters, the narrator’s characterization was superb. As for the book itself, I’m thankful that Will is not a loner – he hangs out with the super-smart kids – and he’s a practical joker (as evidenced by Will’s response when he is asked to touch someone’s face). The author did an amazing job of recreating a situation where someone is treated differently because they are blind, but he doesn’t leave it there, showing Will (and us) that some people do “get it.” Will also seems to possess a certain amount of awareness about himself and the world around him, and yet he wants to be able to conceptualize visual information when he meets Cecily, whose photography hobby is a foreign world to him. This book does ask important questions about vision, autonomy, independence, helicopter parents, even though I found myself vastly disagreeing with its conclusions.
I could devote an entire blog post to the real-life counterparts to Will’s mother. She is the embodiment of a helicopter parent. Mom packs Will’s lunch every day, braille labeling the containers, wanting to hover at every opportunity. She insists that he wear big dark sunglasses to school (unlike some more stylish options he can wear), and Will just seems to go along with it after he freaks out Cecily by unintentionally staring at her.
This meddling is not new. As a young boy, when another child takes advantage of Will’s inability to see, instead of teaching Will how to handle that situation, his parents ship him off to a school for the blind. Ten years later, Will is trying to find his way, and his mother is smothering him… until, suddenly, she isn’t? And Will realizes that her hovering is preparing him for independence? And we’re all somewhat dependent on each other? Um… what?
The Disability Cure Trope
When Will begins to regain his vision, his confusion and exhaustion are obvious. The author does a great job of describing in general how exhausting it is for a brain to completely re-wire itself to process things differently. However, unlike Mike May in “Crashing Through”, Will’s parents do the initial leg work with him and his identifying of objects. I had a hard time with the disability-cure-leads-to-happiness idea, particularly since Will was never certain he wanted the operation to begin with, and the idea that Mom and Dad are teaching him to “see” just rang hollow and like the author didn’t feel like doing some research.
Speaking of Research
There were some truly cringe-worthy research blunders in this book. For example, Voiceover reads textx, not Siri. While in some ways the author adequately described the dynamics at a school for the blind, and the frustrations of electric cars, he also completely misnamed someone who teaches the blind to navigate as an “Orienteering and mobility guide.” One of Will’s friends wants to help him and Cecily deliver the morning announcements at school, does a bit of research, and asks Will if he’s heard of a refreshable braille display (Will has, but doesn’t have one). Buddy is able to procure one (something that costs thousands of dollars) in a matter of just a couple of days, and he (not Will) is the one to set it up. A little research would have gone a long way to making this book so much better… but as a fun aside… Do Scratch ‘n Sniff stickers come in gasoline and smelly socks?
The above paragraphs sound like I hated the book. In fact, I didn’t hate it at all. I had a really hard time with some ideas within, and I’m always very frustrated if an author decides not to do their homework. But it’s a fun way to spend some time, and it’s written in an engaging style that made me smile. I grew to love Will and Cecily and their friends. Even Will’s Dad grew on me. Take a ride with Will, Cecily and their friends; it’s a mildly wild one.
Have you read this book or any of the others I’ve reviewed? Leave a comment in their comment sections, and let’s chat about it!