Blind by Rachel DeWoskin: Book Review

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Obtained: Penguin, ARC
Pages: 416
Publish date: August 7, 2014
Rating: ★★★★

I was hooked onto Blind the minute I read the summary online – a girl who has an accident and ends up going blind has to relearn how to get through daily life? How does that not sound interesting? What got me thinking hardest was how DeWoskin was going to write this novel from the perspective of a blind character. Description often relies on visual imagery; what would happen when the author cannot rely on describing the setting by what the character sees? I had to know how this book was going to be written. And once I finished, I couldn’t have been more impressed.

As I’ve sort of already covered, Blind tells the story of fifteen-year-old Emma, a girl who experienced a horrible accident and ended up losing her eyesight. After a year of attending a special school for the blind, her parents and teachers think she is ready to be reintegrated among her former classmates and attend “regular” high school again. Around the time Emma had the accident, a friend of hers from public school was found washed up on the side of a river – alleged suicide. By following the tale of these simultaneous tragedies, the reader draws parallels and sees how Emma is trying to find sense in why tragedies happen in the first place.

When it comes to plot, I did find chunks of this novel to be a bit bland. Her secondary friends all sound the same, and there were lots of conversations with these high school students about Claire’s suicide that could have gone unwritten. That being said, I did thoroughly enjoy reading this novel.

My favourite thing about the book is that DeWoskin made me THINK like a blind person. She describes everything through Emma’s perspective, so instead of getting visual descriptions of characters, you have to rely on memory of names, creations of characters’ voices you’ve invented in your head, the smell of their lip gloss… It was absolutely wonderful and so intriguing that every time I opened the book, it was like I’d taken on Emma’s blindness and was forced to think in this entirely new way. It gave me a new perspective, not only of those who are blind, but of life in general, which was really amazing. There’s so much more to this world than sight, which many of us take for granted every day. We should try to look deeper and experience everything, not just the visual. This read was quite an experience.

Another thing I really loved about Blind was that DeWoskin didn’t seem to treat Emma and her teenage friends like every other YA novel I’ve read. Usually in YA lit, if there is a moment where a character tries smoking or drinking for the first time, it is an experience that ruins or completely changes them for the rest of the novel in some way. Anyone in real life who drinks or smokes can tell you it is not a life-changing experience. It’s just a thing they do, like reading or taking up a sport. So when Emma is at a party and takes a sip of wine, it’s not a plot point in the novel. She doesn’t do these things often, but in the rare cases she does, she doesn’t judge her friends for pressuring her or for being party animals. She just tries it and moves on – a more realistic portrayal of these “life events”.

The same can be said about the portrayal of sex in this novel. Without giving away any spoilers, I really loved the conclusion to Emma’s “love life” subplot. It was satisfying to see something that wasn’t so cliche.

I really appreciate that Blind was very mature. It dealt with a lot of themes most YA novels wouldn’t even think to touch, and DeWoskin portrayed Emma’s not-so-normal teen life in a very normal and realistic light. There were moments where the writing seems drawn out, but it is worth those moments to experience the novel as a whole and have an appreciation not only for DeWoskin’s writing style, but what you’ll learn about your own life through her “blind” writing. Very well done, and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to read a unique YA novel!

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