Title: Love and First Sight
Author: Josh Sundquist
Publication: January 3rd 2017 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Source: Publisher in exchange for a honest review
Summary from Goodreads:
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?
Told with humor and breathtaking poignancy, Love and First Sight is a story about how we related to each other and the world around us.
Love and First Sight surprised me, simple as that. I didn’t think I was going to like it as much as I did. I didn’t think I was going to find it as cute, lighthearted, and adorable as I did. If you go into the book and put aside all of the science-y aspects, it completely transforms into something unique, imaginative, and heartwarming. Love and First Sight is a story of discovery and of how love knows no bounds. Love isn’t something we create because we can see, love is fundamentally feeling – and this book is a brilliant celebration of the differences that make us human.
Will was entertaining, to make a long story short. I enjoyed his commentary, most of the time. There were moments in his narrative that felt inauthentic and almost like a childish caricature of what an actual teen would think or do – but in the grand scope of things, it was forgivable. Will was stubborn, but he was also gentle and kind. He wanted to do everything himself, and he wasn’t afraid to let you know when you overstepped the boundaries. Oh, and he’s also blind – which was awesome. Small note, I’m not saying that being blind is awesome, I mean having a protagonist with a disability I can relate to is awesome. There is something magical about writing without one of the senses, and I think that magic really worked in favor of the novel as a whole. Every word, sentence, and paragraph had a reason – there was always meaning. Not only did the selectiveness of the sensory detail illuminate Will’s character, it also enabled a different type of growth we don’t often see in literature.
Now, on to the parts that sort of messed me up. I loved this book, I really did – but some things just need to be addressed first. To begin: Cecily. I adored her, and I wish she had even more time in the story. My problem is not with her character or anything she did, no, my issue is with how she was handled as a narrative tool. Cecily should have been so much more than something to mess up his friend group because she wasn’t as pretty as Will had hoped she would be. Do you see the problem here? Will basically throws a bitch fit because, after the surgery and he can sort of see, he discovers Cecily isn’t model beautiful. He feels betrayed. WHAT THE HELL. To put so much reliance on beauty really bothered me because Cecily was a genius, she was kind, and she put herself out there to help Will with things throughout the course of the novel. The “issue” of her non-traditional beauty shouldn’t have been an issue at all.
My second issue is much smaller than the first: the surgery. While I loved the narrative following the surgery, Will’s relearning shapes and whatnot, the surgery itself was a bit over the top. There was no believable element to cling to here, and it really bothered me. I don’t know if it was Will’s lack of interest or thought process in deciding to go forward, or if it was something else, but the surgery took away from the magic the book had created. I think Sundquist realized this, too – which you will realize when you read it. The surgery took a metaphor that had beautiful qualities and destroyed it by being literal.
Even considering the two things above, I completely adored Love and First Sight. The romance was a perfect slow burn, the friendship was refreshing, and I loved the growth of every individual involved. Stories aren’t all inclusive, our lives touch and change the people around us, too – and I feel Love and First Sight did a beautiful and subtle job of it.