Emma Sasha Silver is fourteen when she is blinded by a backfiring fireworks at a town Fourth of July celebration. For the next six months she remains a lump on the gold couch in her living room, doing little to learn how to live in her dark world. It is then that her parents (doctor father, artist mother) decide to send her to the Briarly Academy for the Blind. It is there that she learns to cope with many of the physical day to day tasks of living. However, it did little to enable Emma to cope with the psychological trauma of blindness after being able to see for fourteen years.
A year after “the accident”, Emma is now mainstreamed into high school. The excitement of this remarkable achievement is overshadowed by the drowning death of Claire, a friend and classmate. Adults and grief counselors, rather than addressing the death head on (suicide? accident?) offer only platitudes and half truths.
But Emma wants to know more…why? What happened? What caused Claire’s death? How can kids help each other avoid getting to the point of suicide? She organizes a group of kids to meet and talk. Will it help? You’ll find out.
There’s a lot to like in Blind by Rachel DeWoskin. Firstly, it’s the first teen book that I know about that deals with blindness and it handles it very well. The range of emotions. The techniques for getting around (organizing clothing with Braille labels, a place for everything and everything in its place). Emma has six siblings from older sisters Leah and Sarah to Babiest Baby Lily. Of course, Emma’s first thoughts are me, me, me. Why me? How can I live? Who will love me? But there comes a time when Emma realizes that her entire family has been affected by her blindness and she begins to see outward.
At first I thought the death of Claire was an obstacle in reading the book. There was a significant story just in dealing with the blindness and its impact on everyone. But later I realized that the contrast between what Emma went through and the “unknown” that Claire went through is an important part of the story. What makes a survivor? Why can one person live and thrive after becoming blind while another potentially ended her life on purpose without enduring anything nearly as catastrophic.
The characters in Blind are great. They run the gamut from best friend Logan who helps Emma manage getting around to some cynical classmates to Emma’s sisters, some understanding, some gruff. It’s interesting to note that the younger ones sometimes have the most honest perspective…but we all know that…out of the mouths of babes.
So, while I think Blind is a wonderful book and definitely worth reading, I do have one small criticism. A little bit better editing and deletion of about 50 pages would have made it a tighter, better book. But, hey, if that’s the only criticism, that’s not bad. Blind is a welcome addition to YA literature. It opened my eyes. (Please forgive me for that one. I just couldn’t help it.)