Blind by Rachel DeWoskin
When Emma was 14 watching fireworks with her family, a rocket backfired and hit the crowd, burning Emma across her eyes and leaving her blind. Emma has to learn how to live as a blind person, pitied by everyone but mostly by herself. She learns to walk with a cane after months of sitting on the family couch not doing anything at all. She is sent to a special school where she learns to read braille and yearns to be back with her best friend at normal high school. After working hard for a year, Emma manages to progress enough to be allowed to return to normal high school, but everything has changed. Not only is it difficult being blind there, but a classmate has been found dead. Now Emma has to figure out how to process the girl’s death without becoming the PBK – Poor Blind Kid again.
DeWoskin has written a complex book here. The heart of it, Emma’s blindness is brilliantly captured. Readers will learn about the limitations of being blind, but also how it makes to listen differently and with more attention than before. The small coping mechanisms are fascinating, such as always wearing a tan bra so that you know it won’t show through any of your shirts and the fact that blind girls still wear makeup, but theirs has to be labeled in a way you can touch.
Emma is a great heroine. Her grieving process is clearly shown as is her determination to return to normal. She is strong but not too strong, so that she is fully human on the page. When Emma creates a group of students who meet secretly to deal with the girl’s death, the book slows. While it is an interesting device to show how teens can come together to help one another grieve and heal, it is far less compelling than Emma’s own journey.
A book that will reach beyond those interested in visual impairment, this teen novel shows the resilience of a girl suddenly blinded but who discovers an inner strength she had never realized she had. Appropriate for ages 13-17.
Reviewed from ARC received from Viking.