Love and First Sight – Josh Sundquist – Little, Brown Books – Published 3 January 2017
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 charming, quiet girl named Cecily. 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?
Love And First Sight is an interesting book that explores the value of sight over really seeing and follows one young man’s journey as he discovers the beauty of friendship, family, acceptance and trust, while somehow helping those around him to discover it also.
Will is blind. So going to his local high school for the first time is a big deal. And the first day really couldn’t have gone much worse. But as Will settles into school and begins to make friends he has the chance to partake in a rare and dangerous surgery that offers him the tantalising possibility of seeing for the first time in his life.
I think Love And First Sight is much less about love and far more about Will’s journey with his sight. As he transitions to high school, Will tries to make others understand how his brain works, explores how he feels about his lack of sight and starts to understand how the people around him view his blindness, especially his family members. But he also begins to realise there is a big difference between sight and seeing. As Will is offered the chance to see for the first time, he (and the reader) must ask why and how it might change things for him. And yes, Love And First Sight is also about a love story.
I love how Will and Cecily first connect. Their discussions about art, Cecily discovering new ways to view art as she explains it to Will and the way she seems to effortlessly include him everything are the perfect contrast to Will’s introspection. Their conversations spark discussions about sunrises, colour, trust, acceptance and even Cecily’s history with other people’s sight and opinions that govern the way she feels about herself, leading Will to question the purpose of sight and the way it is used.
Will is a fun protagonist and narrator. He is a realistic teen guy, careful thinker and pusher of boundaries. He wants to fit in and manage things for himself.
The option for Will’s surgery to give him sight isn’t introduced until a third of the way into the book. I think this worked really well for the timing. The reader gets to know Will, see him settle into school, start making new friends, even audition for the school TV morning announcement team before the surgery is introduced. It is then these things that Will takes into account as he first learns of the surgery and then makes a decision on whether to go ahead with it. It creates a multilayered and interesting plot.
I also want to make something clear. In the summary it makes it sound like Will is upset his friends didn’t mention Cecily’s appearance because of how she looks, but he’s actually upset because his friends didn’t tell him. No, he’s not a shallow jerk, but someone for whom trust is a big deal. I would love to explore Cecily’s story more and was very intrigued as to what her apparently defining physical characteristic would be revealed as. I thought Will’s journey with sight was a great way of reflecting society’s very strange value of attraction and Cecily’s own struggle with acceptance
I like how science and art play a large role in this book, yet ultimately the focus is on the human experience – friendship, love, trust and belonging.
The publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Blindness, vision impairment, love, high school, experimental surgery, sight, art, family, trust, friendship, appearance.
Reading age guide: Ages 12 and up.
Published: 3 January 2017
Format: Hardcover, ebook, audiobook. 288 pages.