BOOK REVIEW: Blind by Rachel DeWoskin (3.5 stars)

BlindVerdict: Very well written, interesting and engaging, but with a contradictory subplot.

Blind is a book I began because I was curious, and finished because I really needed to know how it ended.

Emma Sasha Silver (and she is as embarrassed about her full name as any teen would be) is a shy, invisible teenage girl, eclipsed by more confident friends such as Logan, and hidden by her 9-member strong family. She is the third child of seven, six of whom are also girls. She’s no one outstanding, no one particularly noticeable, until she loses her eyesight in a freak firework accident.

The story follows her recovery – not the recovery of her sight, because that is permanently gone, but the recovery of herself. After her accident, Emma is quite understandably angry, whiny and uncharacteristically vicious towards her friends and family. She wants to die. Then, one of her school friends actually does commit suicide, and Emma realises that she really doesn’t want to die after all. Taking baby steps, she tries to feel her way, not to the person she used to be, but to the person she wants to become.

There are many moments in this book that hit me hard, I think probably because I identify with Emma’s situation. At 26, I have incredibly poor eyesight, which will only get worse as I get older. On top of this, I have a genetic condition which, at some random moment, may cause the veins in my left eye to rupture and leave me permanently blind. Due to this, I’ve often thought about what it would mean for me to be unable to see anything and, as Emma puts it, live in the ‘forever dark’.

In general, DeWoskin writes very well, and I was intrigued by her descriptions of colours, voices and smells in terms of what they look like to a blind person. There was occasionally a raw intensity to the way Emma reacted, and the way the Silver family reacted to certain events, that drew clear parallels with how I know my own family would react if such a thing happened to us. You adjust with Emma as the novel goes on, wanting her to succeed in living her life in a way that pleases her, and for her to know that losing her sight doesn’t mean losing everything else as well.

The characters were good and notably solid. I especially liked the character of Sarah, Emma’s older sister, who was as flawed and unhappy as Emma, but for very different reasons. Typical teenage mistakes were made in the book, and there were recognisable family moments of laughter and silliness that rang true to the reader.

The drawback to this book is, unfortunately, the sub-plot of Claire’s suicide. I understand from a literary perspective that this serves as a wonderful parallel to Emma’s loss of sight, and it’s a good way for Emma to sort out her own thoughts about fortune and what makes life worth living. Unfortunately, the way Emma tried to sort through the impact of this suicide was clumsy, which was completely out of character for an otherwise emotionally intelligent young woman. I understood the reason behind Emma’s vocal hesitance: she’s shy, she’s not used to speaking aloud and being the centre of attention, but Emma’s inner thoughts didn’t reflect what I would have considered to be common sense.

That said, I enjoyed this book so much that I missed my train stop because I was so caught up in it. I would recommend it, because although it is not the perfect read, it is still definitely worth the time it takes to finish.

Go on, let me know what you think!

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