Love and First Sight
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Sixteen-year-old Will has never seen a sunset, never ridden a bike, and never been to a regular school. He was born completely blind, and spent the last ten years at a boarding school for kids just like him. However, he’s determined to prove to the world—and, more importantly, his parents—that he can function independently in a sighted world. He drops out of his boarding school and starts tenth grade at his local high school.
But it’s not easy going from “popular kid” at his school for the blind to “weirdo” at his new school. On top of that, he makes a complete fool of himself several times throughout the first day, and he wonders if he hasn’t made a huge mistake. Slowly, though, with a group of awesome friends, some strict-but-sensible teachers, and Cecily, whose voice makes Will’s knees weak, he begins to change his mind.
That is, until he hears about an experimental surgery that could give him the ability to see for the first time in his life. The risks are astronomical, but so’s the payoff; he could see paintings and sunsets and Cecily’s face for the first time. When he discovers he’s a viable candidate for the surgery, he just has to decide if it’s worth redefining himself to gain his sense of sight.
Oh boy was this book good! I really, really enjoyed it way more than I thought I would given the genre. I was completely convinced it was going to be a plain, old realistic fiction novel that was super-predictable and blah blah blah. Luckily, I was surprised. Love and First Sight is incredibly entertaining!
The character of Will has an immediately engaging voice. He takes certain things seriously and gets angry when he thinks he’s being picked on, but given all of his world experience, it makes sense. Actually, the way all the characters in this book behave makes perfect sense given what we know about them to start and what we learn throughout the book. I really thought that Sundquist did a great job creating these characters because their motivations were clearly detailed. The main characters had strongly developed backgrounds. Even some of minor characters (like the rest of his friends that he makes) gave me the sense that I truly knew them as individuals rather than just “friend A, friend B, and friend C.” They all had distinct personalities, and I felt like I knew them as people by the end of the book.
And then of course in the main characters—Will, Will’s parents, and Cecily—were brilliantly explored. I definitely could see them existing in real life as people. Even when they frustrated me (which happened, of course, because they were so human), I still loved them all. In particular, Will’s mother could be annoying and overbearing, but even when she was behaving that way, you could tell the depth of her love for her son. It was beautifully crafted.
The other great thing that Sundquist does is create a world for readers (who are most likely all sighted) where the lack of sight doesn’t impede the ability to understand what’s going on. This novel is told in first person from Will’s point of view, so it would be very easy to accidentally slip in a bit of description like, “The grass is green,” which Will wouldn’t know. He knows what grass feels like, he knows how it smells, he knows the rustle of it in the wind, but he’s never seen it. He doesn’t even understand what green is because he was born blind. This just illustrates Sundquist’s major challenge in writing this book: making this world and this perspective come alive for us, particularly since he has never been blind.
I really enjoyed where the scenes where Cecily was explaining to Will what it’s like to see by trying to come up with these analogies that made sense for him. For example, at one point in the book she’s trying to describe the sunset. Will tells her he’s never seen colors, so he doesn’t get why a sunset is such a big deal to people. She finally comes up with the comparison using sound, something Will is able to relate to. She says that sometimes colors are like when everyone is talking at once in the cafeteria: all noise and nothing to follow. But a sunset, she continues, is like an orchestra playing a beautiful tune in harmony. That analogy made me actually put the book down—I’d never thought of it that way, but it’s absolutely right. Little gems like that make this book beautiful.
The book has a good message and subtle themes. Many books with characters with disabilities are can be heavy-handed to the point of distraction, but Sundquist handles everything with the faith that his readers will understand without needing to have everything thrown in their faces. Love and First Sight ends on a positive note that is as sweet and perfect as the rest the book. It was exactly as long as it needed to be, and the end was completely satisfying in a way that many books I’ve read recently aren’t.
I struggled to find something to complain about regarding this book, and the only possible thing I could think of is the road trip—I thought that the only way teens could ride in a car together is if one was eighteen. However, I don’t think Sundquist ever tells us how old Will’s friends are, so I suppose it’s possible that either a) this is a law only in my state or b) one of the friends is old enough that it doesn’t matter. But given that I had to dig to find even that one issue, I’d say this book is one of the best I’ve read in a long while.
Read this book. You will not regret it.
- High schoolers
- People who have felt left out
- Basically all the people
- Bullying: people get bullied in the book
- Deceit: people trick others
- Lying: people lie to others to get their way and/or protect themselves
- Shaming: people attempt to make others feel bad for who they are
- Growing Up
- Overcoming Adversity
- Romantic Love
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