Book Review: Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist

love and first sight via paper trail diary

Love and First Sight, by Josh Sundquist, via Little, Brown, out now.

If there’s one thing I don’t like, it’s people feeling sorry for me.

Love and First Sight ticked a lot of good boxes for me. Cute YA love story? Check. Great characters? Check. An opportunity to learn about how life is for someone unlike me? Check. Funny, heartwarming, smart? Check, check, check.

Will is starting at a new high school, which is hard enough as it is, but it’s 10x harder when you’re blind and have to be led around by the vice principal, who shouts at everyone to ‘clear the path! Blind student coming through!’ Will decided to leave his high school for blind students to try and have a more normal life, as normal as it can get for a blind kid in a high school. On his first day, he accidentally grabs a girl’s boob, sits in a guy’s lap, and somehow made a classmate cry because she thought he was staring at her.

The girl who cried is Cecily, and despite the bad start, her and Will become very close once they’re partnered together in journalism class. Will is the writer, Cecily is the photographer. One of my favourite scenes is when they go to an art gallery and Cecily has to figure out how to explain the point of painting to someone who has never seen anything before.

“Um, let me think of an example.” She pauses. “Okay, it’s like how you can be looking at something, a person or a beautiful landscape like, I don’t know, the Grand Canyon, but then you take a photo with a cell phone camera and it doesn’t look the same. It takes skill even to create photos that represent what the eye sees.”

Sigh. Will people never learn? “Still doesn’t mean much to me.”

“Oh, right, sorry. I guess it’s like… You know what my voice sounds like, right?”

“Yeah.” I ponder her voice for a moment. It’s controlled and pressurized, like the water flowing through a turbine in a dam. But dams don’t just generate power. They are a barricade. They hold back a flood.

“And the sound of my voice is very clear coming through your ears?”

The question interrupts my thoughts about hydro-power. “Sure.”

“Can you imitate it?”

“How do you mean?”

“Like, can you re-create the sound of my voice using your own vocal cords?”

“Oh… I think I get it now.”

Will easily falls into a group of friends (after he sits on that guy’s lap), which happen to be Cecily’s friends, too. As the pair grows closer and closer, even daring each other to try out for the school’s news anchor team, something is still going unsaid. Cecily drops hints about how she’s been bullied and left out of things, but never explains why (and Will is too much of a dude to realize he could ask). And then comes a bombshell: Will is eligible for a surgery that could give him eyesight, and he decides to go through with it, even at such a risk. He’s so excited, but Cecily seems hesitant, and he doesn’t get why. The idea the book plays with is what could be up with Cecily’s appearance? Why’d she cry when she thought Will was staring at her? Have people been lying to Will about what she looks like? Does it matter what she looks like?

While reading, I drew a few comparisons to Holding Up the Universe. Both play with the idea of appearances and how we can fall for people for who they really are. But while the other book felt a bit more obvious in that regard, somehow this book played out in a more subtle manner, even though it actually seems like it should be the other way around. It felt more innocent and cute, I guess, while Holding Up the Universe is a bit darker and more rooted in trauma. I think the way that I read the two comes into this opinion, though!

I loved Will’s voice. Josh Sundquist is a vlogger and motivational speaker (after surviving cancer and a leg amputation), and has written books about such called We Should Hang Out Sometime and Just Don’t Fall. He’s a happy, loving presence who puts himself out there. So he gets voice. I fell for how Will perceived the world, and learned about what it’s like for blind people in certain regards along the way. He can be a bit snarky at times, and I don’t blame him, but he can also be very sweet and clever. I also adored Cecily and can realize how excited she would be that she could have someone around that can’t see what everyone else sees and judges her for. So even though the characters don’t exactly have any edginess to them, this is the kind of book you read when you feel like you need to hug a book. I had a lot of fun with it, and wished I hadn’t read through it so quickly! I hope Josh continues to write YA fiction.

[I received this book from Hachette Book Group Canada in exchange for an honest review; this did not affect my opinion of the book whatsoever.]

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