The summer before my junior year of high school, I had the opportunity to go to Alaska. I got to see killer whales, glaciers and all kinds of fish up close. The following spring, I went to Paris with my French class. I got to see the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Le Chateau de Chambord, World War II monuments and so many other things. I thought of these experiences while reading Blindsided by Priscilla Cummings.
What if I had not been able to see all of that? It would have been a totally different experience. More sensory than visual.
In Blindsided, Natalie O'Reilly is a 14-year-old girl, who has been losing her eyesight since she was 8. Her early memories memories are filled with colors, family and the animals on her family farm in Maryland.
From the outside, Natalie is the typical teen. She has friends, gets good grades and is on the student council. But inside, Natalie is crumbling. Born without an iris, Natalie's doctors have been preparing her for the inevitable. As long as she remains positive, Natalie thinks it's ok to ignore her mounting accidents, bumps and falls. She has so much going for her--why does she have to accept losing her eyesight.
"She was fourteen now, on the brink of so much, and maybe, from now on, she would have to get through it by doing what she had always done: tune out the naysayers, like turning off a radio station with too much static. And hope for the miracle."
Natalie wants to wallow in denial, but her parents want her to accept reality, and send her to a school for the blind. Natalie sees the school as a way to enhance her skills, rather than preparing her for life as a blind person. Her roommate Gabriella a.k.a Bree is a lot like Natalie--deep in denial. They eventually form a deep friendship. Another accident forces Natalie to face reality.
Walking with a cane, learning Braille, learning how to count steps and learning how to accept her fate is daunting but necessary.
"It is easier to be blind than to pretend you're not blind."
I found this little gem on my recent spy mission to the YA section of Borders. I wanted to see what was the appeal. I always thought you needed to be a teenager to relate to teenage problems. It's nice to know that isn't the case. I'm not a total YA convert, but Priscilla Cummings' writing swayed me in a big way. Her writing totally captures Natalie's teenage angst. I found myself wanting to cry for Natalie. Not many books make me want to cry, but Cummings came very close. How can you prepare to lose something as precious as your eyesight? In your teen years you feel invincible. Nothing is going to bring you down. Natalie holds on to that belief. The book is also very well-researched. Cummings spent a full academic year attending school with blind students. With such a perspective, Cummings fully captures the emotional roller coaster.