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#SJYALit Reading Lists: Disability in YA Lit, a guest post by Natalie Korsavidis

sjyalitAs part of our 2017 Social Justice in Young Adult Literature project, we will be posting reading lists on various social justice-related subjects. Guest blogger Natalie Korsavidis pulled together this one on disabilities. We will mainly be focusing on books published after 2000. We encourage you to add any other titles you can think of in the comments. Interested in generating a list for us? Let us know! I’m @CiteSomething on Twitter. See more about the #SJYALit project here.

 

Disabilities Fiction

Annotations for titles from alisweb.org, publisher descriptions, and NoveList. Shout-out to Disability in Kidlit, where additional research was done. 

 

dark daysBerk Josh. The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin. Alfred A. Knopf, 2010.
When Will Halpin transfers from his all-deaf school into a mainstream Pennsylvania high school, he faces discrimination and bullying, but still manages to solve a mystery surrounding the death of a popular football player in his class.

 

 

shark girlBingham, Kelly. Shark Girl. Candlewick Press, 2007.
After a shark attack causes the amputation of her right arm, fifteen-year-old Jane, an aspiring artist, struggles to come to terms with her loss and the changes it imposes on her day-to-day life and her plans for the future.

 

 

 

iron trialBlack, Holly. The Iron Trial. Scholastic, 2014.
All his life Callum Hunt has been warned by his father that practicing magic is a guaranteed death sentence. When Call is summoned to attend the entrance exams for The Magisterium, he promises his father he will deliberately fail the test to avoid the dangerous lure of magic school. Unfortunately, magic is in Call’s blood, and though his permanent limp and sarcastic attitude do not appear to serve him well during testing, he is selected with two other “Iron Years” to be a pupil of the greatest mage of all, Master Rufus.

 

 

read my lipsBrown, Teri. Read My Lips. Simon Pulse, 2008.
Serena just wants to fly under the radar at her new school. But Serena is deaf, and she can read lips really well-even across the busy cafeteria. So when the popular girls discover her talent, there’s no turning back.

 

 

 

blindsidedCummings, Priscilla. Blindsided. Dutton Children’s Books, 2010.
After years of failing eyesight, fourteen-year-old Natalie reluctantly enters a school for the blind, where in spite of her initial resistance she learns the skills that will help her survive in the sighted world.

 

 

 

the one thingCurtis, Marci Lynn. The One Thing. Hyperion, 2015.
After losing her sight–and the future she dreamed of–seventeen-year-old Maggie meets the one person with the ability to help her see all the possibilities life still holds.

 

 

 

blindDeWoskin, Rachel. Blind. Viking, 2014.
After a horrific accident leaves her blind, fifteen-year-old Emma, one of seven children, eagerly starts high school as a sophomore, and finds that nearly everything has changed–sometimes for the better.

 

 

 

gameworldFarley, Christopher John. Game World. Akashic Books, 2013.
A virtual game world called Xamaica becomes real for three Jamaican sixth graders, who embark upon a quest through a fantastical landscape laden with Caribbean mythology.

 

 

 

pinnedFlake, Sharon. Pinned. Scholastic, 2012.
Adonis is smart, intellectually gifted and born without legs; Autumn is strong, a great wrestler, and barely able to read in ninth grade–but Autumn is attracted to Adonis and determined to make him a part of her life whatever he or her best friend thinks.

 

 

 

dangerousHale, Shannon. Dangerous. Bloomsbury, 2014.
When aspiring astronaut Maisie Danger Brown, who was born without a right hand, and the other space camp students get the opportunity to do something amazing in space, Maisie must prove how dangerous she can be and how far she is willing to go to protect everything she has ever loved.

 

 

push girlHill, Chelsie. Push Girl. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2014.
Kara, a high school junior, is popular with a great group of friends, an amazing boyfriend, and expectations of being Homecoming Queen until she leaves a party angry and wakes up in a hospital bed, paralized from the waist down, but as she is forced to adjust to her new physical reality, she also learns that her friends are not who they seemed to be.

 

 

five flavorsJohn, Antony. Five Flavors of Dumb. Dial Books, 2010.
Eighteen-year-old Piper becomes the manager for her classmates’ popular rock band, called Dumb, giving her the chance to prove her capabilities to her parents and others, if only she can get the band members to get along.

 

 

 

accidentsJohnson, Harriet. Accidents of Nature. Holt, 2006.
Having always prided herself on blending in with “normal” people despite her cerebral palsy, seventeen-year-old Jean begins to question her role in the world while attending a summer camp for children with disabilities.

 

 

 

wiredmanKaufman, Sashi. Wired Man and Other Freaks of Nature. Lerner Publishing Group, 2016.
Ben has to wear hearing aids, but being inseparable from the super-popular Tyler allows him to think of himself as normal. But Tyler blows him off senior year and Ben needs to rethink who he is–and who Tyler is.

 

 

 

RUNKeplinger, Kody. Run. Scholastic Press, 2016.
Bo Dickinson is a seventeen-year-old girl from a bad family, but she is also over-protected, legally blind, Agnes Atwood’s best friend–so when Bo calls in the middle of the night, desperate to get out of town, Agnes helps her to steal the Atwoods’ car and the two girls go on the run, even though Agnes is not sure exactly what they are running from.

 

 

stoner andKoertge, Ron. Stoner and Spaz. Candlewick Press, 2002.
A troubled youth with cerebral palsy struggles toward self-acceptance with the help of a drug-addicted young woman.

 

 

 

not if iLindstrom, Eric. Not if I See You First. Poppy, Little Brown, and Company, 2015.
Blind sixteen-year-old Parker Grant navigates friendships and romantic relationships, including a run-in with a boy who previously broke her heart, while coping with her father’s recent death.

 

 

 

silenceLytton, Deborah Lynn. Silence. Shadow Mountain, 20015.
After an accident robs Stella of her hearing and her dream of going to Broadway, she meets Hayden, a boy who stutters, and comes to learn what it truly means to connect and communicate in a world filled with silence.

 

 

the callO’Guilin, Peadar. The Call. Scholastic, 2016.
For the last twenty-five years every teenager in Ireland has been subject to “the call” which takes them away to the land of the Sídhe, where they are hunted for twenty four hours. Handicapped by her twisted legs, Nessa Doherty knows that very few return alive, but she is determined to be one of them.

 

 

andromedaPortman, Frank. Andromeda Klein. Delacorte Press, 2009,
High school sophomore Andromeda, an outcast because she studies the occult and has a hearing impairment and other disabilities, overcomes grief over terrible losses by enlisting others’ help in her plan to save library books–and finds a kindred spirit along the way.

 

 

tone deafRivers, Olivia. Tone Deaf. Perseus Distribution Services, 2016.
Ali Collins was a child piano prodigy until a brain tumor caused her to lose her hearing, and now, after meeting Jace, the lead singer of Tone Deaf, her musical and romantic possiblities increase.

 

 

 

hurt goRorby, Ginny. Hurt Go Happy. Tom Doherty Associates, 2006.
When thirteen-year-old Joey Willis, deaf since the age of six, meets Dr. Charles Mansell and his chimpanzee Sukari, who use sign language, her world blooms with possibilities but that of the chimp begins to narrow.

 

 

 

she is notSedgwick, Marcus. She is Not Invisible. Square Fish, 2014.
A London teenager who is blind and her younger brother travel to New York to find their missing father, using clues from his notebook.

 

 

 

 

love-and-firstSundquist, Josh. Love and First Sight. Little, Brown and Company, 2017.
Sixteen-year-old blind teen Will Porter undergoes an experimental surgery that enables him to see for the first time, all while navigating a new school, new friends, and a crush.

 

 

 

stuck inTrueman, Terry. Stuck in Neutral. Harper Tempest, 2001.
Fourteen-year-old Shawn McDaniel, who suffers from severe cerebral palsy and cannot function, relates his perceptions of his life, his family, and his condition, especially as he believes his father is planning to kill him.

 

 

 

running dreamVan Draanen, Wendelin. The Running Dream. Knopf, 2011.
When a school bus accident leaves sixteen-year-old Jessica an amputee, she returns to school with a prosthetic limb and her track team finds a wonderful way to help rekindle her dream of running again.

 

 

 

a time toVenkatraman, Padma. A Time to Dance. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014.
In India, a girl who excels at Bharatanatyam dance refuses to give up after losing a leg in an accident.

 

 

 

 

reachingZimmer, Tracie Vaughn. Reaching for the Sun. Holtzbrinck Publishers, 2007.
Josie, who lives with her mother and grandmother and has cerebral palsy, befriends a boy who moves into one of the rich houses behind her old farmhouse.

 

 

 

Meet Natalie Korsavidis

Natalie Korsavidis is the Head of Local History/Reader’s Advisory Librarian at the Farmingdale Public Library. She is also in charge of Collection Development for Young adult fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, and manga.

Book Review: Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist

Publisher’s description

love-and-firstIn 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 sixteen-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 related to each other and the world around us.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

First things first: I really would like to see some reviews of this book from people who are blind. Because I don’t know just how “right” Sundquist gets the many feelings about and experiences of being blind. That is not to say that that there is any one universal way to feel or one universal experience, obviously. Or that I think Sundquist is getting it “wrong.” After I read/review a book, I look for other reviews, especially when the subject matter is far out of my realm of experience and I’d really like to see reviews by people who share an identity with the main characters in the book. So, own voices reviews. After I wrote up my thoughts on this book, I poked around online and didn’t see any reviews yet that are from people who are fully or partially blind. Hoping once the book officially is out and the ebook and audiobook are out, that will change.

 

Will, 16, has started at a traditional school (or been “mainstreamed”) for the first time in his life, after spending all of his years in school being surrounded by other blind and visually-impaired people. He doesn’t want an aide (nor does he need one); he just wants to be as independent as possible. He doesn’t want people to feel sorry for him or feel that his life is any less full because he is blind. He encounters various attitudes, from his overly “helpful” principal who clearly has no clue how to interact with him and makes sure to point out that he’s “special” and “different,” to his great English and journalism teacher who makes it clear that she will hold him to all of the same expectations as the rest of the class. After a few initial embarrassing moments, Will gets into the swing of things and adjusts well to the change. He makes friends quickly—Nick, Ion, Whitford, and Cecily, all members of the quiz team. He grows particularly close with Cecily, whom he has journalism class with and ends up auditioning for the schools news with. They work on assignments together and hang out and Will is pretty sure he’s falling for Cecily. We get little hints that something may be up with her. We find out she’s been bullied most of her life. What we don’t find out, until later, is that Cecily has a rather large birthmark covering the top half of her face—a purple kind of “mask” that leads her classmates to have called her “Batgirl” for years. No one tells Will about this, though.

 

Will undergoes an experimental operation (retinal stem cell transplant) in the hopes of gaining full eyesight. The surgery is very risky, and not just for the reasons you might think. If successful, Will will have eyesight for the first time in his life. The visual cortex of his brain has developed differently than that of someone with eyesight and the learning curve (and adjustment to the flood of new information) will be steep. Fewer than 20 people have gone from total blindness to sight (an actual statistic, which we see in the author’s extensive note on his research). Will’s dad, a doctor, warns Will against the surgery, worried what it will do to him, mentally, if he can suddenly see. But he goes ahead with the surgery, which is successful. Before long, Will can see that Cecily has a birthmark, but he doesn’t think anything of it, really, other than noting her face looks different from other faces he’s seeing. For Will, who has never seen anything before, he just kind of catalogs her face as unlike others, but doesn’t judge her. He still feels she’s beautiful, which was his impression of her before he could see her. He certainly doesn’t see it as a “disfigurement,” which is his mother’s word. He calls it her beauty mark. But, even though he doesn’t suddenly want nothing to do with Cecily because of how she looks, he does feel completely lied to by Cecily and all of their friends. He feels he can’t trust them now. As he notes, everyone is always anxious to describe every single detail of everything to him. So why did they leave out Cecily’s birthmark?

 

Here’s the obvious discussion about this part of the book: Does the author make it feel like Will the only one who can find Cecily beautiful because he can’t see her (or doesn’t see her until quite late in their relationship)? Or that Will is the only one who can like her because he doesn’t know to think of her birthmark as offputting? Or that Will is the only one who can like her because he can “see beyond” her birthmark? Etc etc. I think Sundquist does a pretty good job of not making this storyline feel cliched, but there’s definitely room for discussion. I did spend a fair amount of time feeling sad that Cecily has such low self-esteem and obviously sees very little value in herself (she doesn’t think she’ll ever have a relationship, she doesn’t like pictures of herself, she worries she’ll hold Will back from winning as news anchor because no one will want her on the TV screen). I also spent a fair amount of time being SUPER irritated at Will’s cheerfully (and naively) optimistic mother, who seems to have ZERO clue about the process of going from being blind to having eyesight. You would think she would have educated herself more (especially given he’s been blind his whole life–she seems to have a fundamental misunderstanding of how his brain works and what his frames of reference may or may not include) or listened for two seconds to her doctor-husband who understands, and explains, the very complicated process Will’s brain is now undergoing.

 

Though the writing can be a little heavy-handed at times, overall this is an engaging story that seemed to avoid the pitfalls I worried about just based on reading the flap copy. It’s not often a YA book features a blind main character, and Will’s unique story of going from being blind to having eyesight may make readers consider this idea from a new perspective (if they think, as many do, that a blind person would of course want to be able to see). A humorous and thought-provoking read. 

 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780316305358

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication date: 01/03/2017

Book Review: Run by Kody Keplinger

Publisher’s description

RUNBo Dickinson is a girl with a wild reputation, a deadbeat dad, and a mama who’s not exactly sober most of the time. Everyone in town knows the Dickinsons are a bad lot, but Bo doesn’t care what anyone thinks.

Agnes Atwood has never gone on a date, never even stayed out past ten, and never broken any of her parents’ overbearing rules. Rules that are meant to protect their legally blind daughter — protect her from what, Agnes isn’t quite sure.

Despite everything, Bo and Agnes become best friends. And it’s the sort of friendship that runs truer and deeper than anything else.

So when Bo shows up in the middle of the night, with police sirens wailing in the distance, desperate to get out of town, Agnes doesn’t hesitate to take off with her. But running away and not getting caught will require stealing a car, tracking down Bo’s dad, staying ahead of the authorities, and-worst of all-confronting some ugly secrets.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

Well, this was fantastic. The narrative voices, the vivid setting, the story, the writing… all fantastic. The girls take turns narrating the two timelines of the story, with Bo narrating the present and Agnes narrating the backstory. This is a great friendship story about opposites attracting. Bisexual Bo has a bad reputation—she comes from a “bad” family and her peers label her a slut and spread infinite rumors about her. Legally blind Agnes is a good girl, a “poor sweet blind girl” who’s never been given the chance to be “bad.” Or the chance to do anything. Both girls are in desperate need of a real friend. Despite their differences, they grow close, forming a tight bond based on respect, support, kindness, and true friendship. We see their friendship grow through Agnes’s narration. Meanwhile, in Bo’s timeline, we know the girls are on the run, but we don’t know why. It appears that they are headed to make a new start somewhere… that is, if the police don’t catch them first.

 

Also, and probably obviously, this book is noteworthy because it features a blind main character. Agnes uses a cane, talks repeatedly about using enlarged print or braille and other school accommodations, and has lived her whole life with people treating her like she’s some kind of special angel because she’s blind. Agnes longs to be given more freedom. Bo knows Agnes doesn’t need her help to do lots of basic stuff, but is always there for her if she does need assistance. Agnes’s relationship with her parents and her expectations for her future are both heavily shaped by her disability. We learn a lot about what being blind means for Agnes on a day-to-day basis but also what it means for her in a larger sense.

 

One of the main problems with alternate narration is that it’s often so hard to tell the characters apart. Keplinger does a great job of making Bo and Agnes sound very different both in the things they say and how they say them. We can tell early on that Bo isn’t as tough as she seems and Agnes isn’t as meek as people believe her to be.  This is an easy recommendation for anyone who likes a road trip book, an adventure, a Thelma and Louise-type story, a friendship story, or an opposites attract story. Highly recommended. 

 

 ISBN-13: 9780545831130

Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.

Publication date: 06/28/2016