Tag Archives: people with disabilities

Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik

Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik. March 28, 2017. HMH Books for Young Readers, 320 p. ISBN: 9780544829695.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 690.

An unforgettable story about autism, sisterhood, and first love that’s perfect for fans of Jenny Han, Sophie Kinsella, and Sarah Dessen.

Meet Chloe Mitchell, a popular Los Angeles girl who’s decided that her older sister, Ivy, who’s on the autism spectrum, could use a boyfriend. Chloe already has someone in mind: Ethan Fields, a sweet, movie-obsessed boy from Ivy’s special needs class.

Chloe would like to ignore Ethan’s brother, David, but she can’t—Ivy and Ethan aren’t comfortable going out on their own so Chloe and David have to tag along. Soon Chloe, Ivy, David, and Ethan form a quirky and wholly lovable circle. And as the group bonds over frozen yogurt dates and movie nights, Chloe is forced to confront her own romantic choices—and the realization that it’s okay to be a different kind of normal.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 9-12. LaZebnik hits it out of the park with her story about pretty, popular Chloe and her loving relationship with her older, autistic sister, Ivy. On the surface, Chloe has it together—handsome boyfriend James; best friend Sarah; and an effortless, sunny disposition. At home, however, there’s her stepfather, Ron, whose first experience at parenting is marked by micromanagement. When Chloe goes out without her sister, Ivy lets her know that she’s lonely, which gives Chloe an idea: she’s going to find Ivy a boyfriend. There’s a young man in Ivy’s class, named Ethan, whom she seems to like, so Chloe starts working on getting them on a date. Then she finds out that Ethan’s brother, David, someone she knows and despises, will be coming along, too. They start to get along as they get to know each other and realize that they have more in common than they knew. With perceptiveness and ample skill, LaZebnik paints a vivid picture of what the sibling of a person with high-functioning autism might go through. Never resorting to stereotype, she depicts appealing, three-­dimensional characters who flesh out a narrative that is compassionate, tender, funny, and wise all at once. This insightful, well-­written story will entertain readers while inspiring meaningful empathy.

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2016)
The complexities of Chloe’s love life intertwine with her autistic sister’s. White high schooler Chloe has never had trouble fitting in socially. With her father dead of cancer, her mother recently remarried to a know-it-all, and her older sister, Ivy, on the spectrum, Chloe doesn’t have the time or energy to worry about her peers’ perceptions. And she certainly doesn’t care if she’s the object of snarky white classmate David’s insults. But when Ivy begins to question Chloe’s dating rituals, Chloe decides that perhaps Ivy needs a boyfriend of her own. After some investigation, Chloe convinces Ivy to try a date with Ethan from her specialty school. Ever the protective sister, Chloe accompanies Ivy only to discover that Ethan’s assisted by his brother—who is none other than David. As the dates continue, the real sparks form between Chloe and her former nemesis as they both understand the responsibilities of having an autistic family member. Chloe’s realistic narrative never sugarcoats both the challenges and gifts of living with someone with autism. In a twist that provokes more thought, Ivy may be more attracted to classmate Diana than Ethan. While the author expertly handles myriad issues regarding sexuality for those with autism and their families, the pacing does lose speed. An eye-opening look at autism and those it touches. (Fiction. 14 & up)

About the Author

Claire grew up in Newton, Massachusetts, went to Harvard and moved to LA. She’s written five novels for adults and four YA novels.

She lives in the Pacific Palisades with my husband Rob (who writes for “The Simpsons”), her four kids and too many pets to keep track of.

Her website is www.clairelazebnik.com.

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A Blind Guide to Normal by Beth Vrabel

A Blind Guide to Normal  by Beth Vrabel. October 11, 2016. Sky Pony Press, 272 p. ISBN: 9781510702288.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.2; Lexile: 670.

Richie “Ryder” Raymond has a gift. He can find the punchline in any situation, even in his limited vision and prosthetic eye. During the past year at Addison School for the Blind, Ryder’s quick wit earned the respect and friendship of his classmates. Heading to mainstream, or “normal,” school for eighth grade is going to be awesome.

After all, what’s not to like? At Addison, Ryder was everyone’s favorite person. He could make anyone laugh, especially his best friend Alice. So long as he can be first to make all of the one-eyed jokes, Ryder is sure he’ll fit in just as quick at Papuaville Middle School, home of the Fighting Guinea Pigs. But Alice warns him fitting in might not be as easy as he thinks.

Turns out, Alice was right. In just the first hour of “normal” school, Ryder is attacked by General MacCathur II (aka, Gramps’s cat), causes his bio teacher to pass out cold, makes an enemy out town hero Max, and falls for Jocelyn, the fierce girl next door who happens to be Max’s girlfriend. On top of that, Ryder struggles to hold onto his dignity in the face of students’ pity and Gramps’s non-stop practical jokes.

Ryder quickly sees the only thing worse than explaining a joke is being the punchline. But with help from his stuck-in-the-70s Gramps and encouragement from Alice, Ryder finds the strength to not only fight back, but to make peace.

Sequel to: A Blind Guide to Stinkville

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Death of a child

 

Reviews

School Library Journal (October 1, 2016)
Gr 4-6-Richie Ryder Randolf is used to being a big fish in a small pond. At the Addison School for the Blind, he’s hilarious, he’s smooth, and he’s popular enough to serve as a social mentor for others. Relocated to a middle school in suburban Washington, DC, for eighth grade while his scientist parents go on assignment, he’s flopping on the shore and gasping for air. Between navigating the challenges of his limited vision (he wears an artificial eye owing to complications from cancer) and being a social disaster, Ryder is seriously struggling-and he’s not the only one. His grandfather, who’s supposed to be taking care of Ryder while the boy’s parents are away, talks to his decades-dead wife, lives as if he’s still in the 1970s, and insists on calling the protagonist by his full name, Richie Ryder. Ryder’s parents are immersed in work to the point of benign neglect. In this sequel to A Blind Guide to Stinkville, Vrabel injects just the right goofy mix of hormones and pain into Ryder’s mounting rages, fervent emotional deflection techniques, and confusing romantic ups and downs and gives equal weight to the foibles and dramas of those around him. As any reader of middle grade fiction might expect, the title is a red herring-nobody’s normal, and everybody’s just trying their best. VERDICT A sweet, thoughtful, and funny read. Hand this to fans of Vrabel’s previous novels and those who enjoy a heartfelt tale without the typical saccharine coating.-Katya Schapiro, Brooklyn Public Library

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2016)
When Ryder graduates from the Addison School for the Blind, he and Artie—his artificial eye, courtesy of cancer—look forward to being normal, whatever that is. Wisecracking, white Ryder is forced to stay with his eccentric, equally sarcastic grandfather when his parents, both avid research biologists, accept new assignments. His arrival at Papuaville Middle School is a shock—to the teacher he causes to faint and the semibully he inadvertently provokes. Fortunately, crushing on white, tough-but-wounded Jocelyn and wielding his increasingly desperate sense of humor help him to withstand bullies, distant parents, and cringeworthy good intentions. Karate classes provide an outlet, humor, and further character development, and a surprise quilting class provides surprising insight. Readers may groan at Ryder’s jokes, but the pranks he pulls with his narration are great fun, calling out “very special episode” clichés and blindness stereotypes. But the “relentless positivity” trope is dismantled with care as Ryder interacts with equally vulnerable characters and sees his clowning for the defense mechanism it often is—and acknowledges the anger it’s masking. Like Alice of the preceding A Blind Guide to Stinkville (2015), Ryder and his family and friends all experience disorientation—this time from the shock of moving forward as well as away—and learn how to grieve in their own ways. As Ryder might say, Vrabel has an eye for sympathetic, offbeat characters—and a knack for feel-good resolutions. (Fiction. 9-12)

About the Author

Beth Vrabel grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. She won a short-story contest in fourth grade and promptly decided writing was what she was going to do with her life. Although her other plans–becoming a wolf biologist, a Yellowstone National Park ranger, and a professional roller skater–didn’t come to fruition, she stuck with the writing. After graduating from Pennsylvania State University with a degree in journalism, she moved through the ranks of a local newspaper to become editor of two regional magazines and a lifestyle columnist. Beth now lives in Connecticut with her wonderful husband, two charming children, a spoiled rotten puppy, and two guinea pigs, Winn-Dixie and Pippin.

Her website is www.bethvrabel.com.

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A Blind Guide to Normal on Amazon

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Love and First Sight by John Sundquist

Love and First Sight by John Sundquist. January 3, 2017. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 288 p. ISBN: 978031605358.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Love is more than meets the eye.

On his first day at a new school, blind sixteen-year-old Will Porter accidentally groped a girl on the stairs, sat on another student in the cafeteria, and somehow drove a classmate to tears. High school can only go up from here, right?

As Will starts to find his footing, he develops a crush on a sweet but shy girl named Cecily. And despite his fear that having a girlfriend will make him inherently dependent on someone sighted, the two of them grow closer and closer. Then an unprecedented opportunity arises: an experimental surgery that could give Will eyesight for the first time in his life. But learning to see is more difficult than Will ever imagined, and he soon discovers that the sighted world has been keeping secrets. It turns out Cecily doesn’t meet traditional definitions of beauty—in fact, everything he’d heard about her appearance was a lie engineered by their so-called friends to get the two of them together. Does it matter what Cecily looks like? No, not really. But then why does Will feel so betrayed?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 6))
Grades 7-10. Will Porter, blind from birth, has sculpted his world using smells and sounds. When he transfers to a conventional high school to prove his independence, he finds that trusting in others is his biggest challenge. After meeting Cecily and being charmed by her voice and company, Will gets the opportunity he never dreamed of—an experimental operation to restore his sight. But with that prospect comes the task of learning the world all over again, as well as learning how to trust Cecily when her secrets are revealed. Rich in sensory detail, this novel pulls readers into Will’s world. Sundquist meticulously traces out mundane tasks with fresh takes to highlight how the blind navigate ordinary spaces and occasions—from entering a new place for the first time to playing a game of Settlers of Catan. Through Will’s postoperative struggles, Sundquist deftly shows the difference between the act of seeing and truly seeing. This fresh and funny coming-of-age story presents an opportunity for readers who take certain abilities for granted to take stock of challenges facing peers.

School Library Journal (November 1, 2016)
Gr 7 Up-Blind since birth, 16-year-old Will Porter has decided that he is ready to mainstream at a new high school rather than continue attending his former school for blind students. After a few minor missteps, which are presented with humor, he adjusts to the new school and makes some interesting friends along the way. The most unique aspect of this inspiring tale is that it is told exclusively from Will’s point of view. The author succeeds at providing readers with a sense of the challenges of day-to-day life for someone with a visual disability, especially for a risk-taking teenager who is striving to be independent. A close friendship and budding romance between Will and fellow student Cecily add further layers. When Will considers surgery to restore his sight, the threat that this possibility poses to the teens’ relationship will encourage young adults to think about their own biases related to physical attractiveness and body image. Readers will enjoy the humor and romance of the story while gaining a better understanding of life with a visual disability. Sundquist makes it clear that Will is not defined by his disability; he often has better “vision” than those with eyesight. VERDICT A highly recommended and engaging story for most YA collections.-Theresa Muraski, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

About the Author

Josh Sundquist is a Paralympian, motivational speaker, and Halloween enthusiast.

His website is www.joshsundquist.com.

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Love and First Sight on Amazon

Love and First Sight on JLG

Love and First Sight on Goodreads