Book Reviews, Contemporary YA

5-Star Love and First Sight

NetGalley delivers digital galleys, often called advance reading copies, or ARCs, to professional readers and helps promote new and upcoming titles. Professional readers–reviewers, media, journalists, bloggers, librarians, booksellers and educators–can join and use NetGalley at no cost.” Netgalley is a special section of my book discussions where I post reviews of the digital books I read through this service. It’s quite amazing the gems you can find. I’ve yet to regret reading a book, even if I don’t like it…


Will is a blind 16 year old transitioning into a mainstream school after years in a safe blind school. If he’s going to make it in a sight centered world then he’ll have to learn to maneuver through whatever they throw at him. Cecily is one of a new group of friends Will grows closer and closer to. As soon as he’s adjusted to the differences between him and his new friends his parents learn about a radical new surgery that could restore his sight to him for the first time in his life. His brain isn’t wired for the sense of sight and as he adjusts to the massive new information he’s also realizing that sighted people don’t share everything with their sight-less friends…

“Yeah, independence and self-reliance sound nice in theory, but in reality they are just synonyms for loneliness. And before I met Cecily I was so tired, without even realizing it, so tired of being lonely.”

I love books where I get to truly experience what it means to be a person different from myself. I am a sighted person so to follow Will around and to get a sense of his perspective was truly a treat, especially since this was so well written, writing wise and story wise! It’s definitely a teenager book, set in a high school – ignore the setting, it is what it is. The setup was really strong. I totally bought why Will was coming to the school suddenly and I loved how it was used as a means to show us how his life as a blind person is. It’s all in the details, from meeting Nick and his new friends to learning about Mrs. Chin’s blind techniques. Even his parents are funnily stuck up, but still loving and ultimately, parents.

“Parents ask you questions about your life the way police officers interrogate subjects on TV cop shows. No matter how much information you provide, they will always follow up a hundred times with slightly reworded questions. So you might as well give short answers and let them pry out the facts incrementally so they feel they are making conversational progress.”

I just loved Will. You can see why from the quote above – he’s full of presence and personality. From the stickers on his wall, to his goal to be a reporter. Best of all I love his interaction with Cecily. How many of us would love for someone to get to know us without being able to judge us by our looks? I hope most of us raise our hands! We learned about Cecily only from Will’s perspective! I totally loved that… And it made total sense to me why he was upset and also why he eventually let it go. I bought into them as a couple because of the clever dialogue between the two of them in the museum. She explains art and perspective in a way he can understand and is brave and kind enough to tell him he committed a faux pas and their whole class knows it! The morning announcements was a lovely part of the story that made the school setting an actual plus. The love story is very good and creates a nice ending to the book in which the story continues way past the end.

The really incredible part of the book is when Will regains his sight. There are some really great conversations that help us understand his perspective as a blind person who has never had sight. And a lot of effort was made to help us to understand what Will was going through being able to see color and to need depth perception, etc. I cannot play up this part of the book enough!

“… Is this how vision works? Is this how shapes work? They disappear and materialize, twist and morph, shift in and out of your field of vision without warning?”

I loved the perspectives of his parents in deciding whether to get this surgery or not. The conversation with his dad and how his dad explained it to him – wow! And his mom’s sudden decision at the end just made me melt! We need more books like this with parents that can be casually cruel (cause they aren’t thinking) and yet love and support in the best ways at the most important times.

I think what made this book so powerful was the strong dialogue that fit the characters but also wasn’t wishy washy or bland and all the showing! There are many plot points that come together to show us why Cecily and Will grow closer. We see the things the group of friends to together that binds them. Will’s narrative voice is super strong but we were also shown what he experienced and so got to experience it for ourselves! It’s quite a powerful example of writing and story craft coming together in a book everyone should read!

The end of the book was really spot on to me. I wasn’t expecting it so it really blew me away. The sighted friends have been an understated part of the story and they come together here at the end in a lovely way. It’s not a huge, major thing so much as spot on for a group of teenagers in high school with a blind friend who can see for the first time in his life.

BOTTOM LINE: A must read for anyone who wants to experience blindness.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.


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