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?
Wow, it has been a long time since my last book review (Fish in a Tree). I hadn’t even initially planned to write a review of John Sundquist’s Love and First Sight. Buuuut then I found myself thinking about this book a lot, and a book that makes you think is worthy of a blog post.
Love and First Sight is the first and only book I’ve read that has a blind narrator. This concept is what drew me to the book in the first place – how would an author describe things without being able to talk about what things look like? Answer: it’s tricky, but Sundquist pulls it off. One of the early scenes in the book features Will going to an art museum, and his friend trying to explain what the difference between impressionism and realism is. Will’s friend tries to describe what something looks like, but only describes it using other sight words. It was humorous, but also really interesting to watch as Will’s friends had to figure out other ways to describe things.
The part of the book I keep coming back to is when Will recovers from surgery and regains his sight. I had never given it much consideration, so when Will got his sight back only to have no idea what he was seeing was a weirdly mind blowing moment for me. Of course someone who has never been able to see would have no understanding of what things are visually. Reading about Will struggling to identify basic shapes (like his childhood blocks) by sight, only to immediately know them by touch was fascinating. I don’t want to go into too much, but this is the section that I find myself thinking about when I’m daydreaming in class (yeah, teachers do it too).
The romance plot is one of the main thrusts of the story, but that part was less engaging for me than reading about Will’s blindness. It was crazy to think about how much more visual our culture has gotten with the rise of computers and social media. It was also crazy to see the solutions Will had to develop to live in a world that relies so much on sight. If you’re looking for a read that will challenge the way you see things (see what I did there??), give John Sundquist’s Love and First Sight a shot.