Accidents of Nature
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Accidents of Nature

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  308 ratings  ·  67 reviews
I'm in the middle of a full-blown spaz-attack, and I don't care. I don't care at all. At home I always try to act normal, and spaz-attacks definitely aren't normal. Here, people understand. They know a spaz-attack signals that I'm
excited. They're excited too, so they squeal with me; some even spaz on purpose, if you can call that spazzing . . .
An unforgettable coming-of-a...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published May 2nd 2006 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (first published May 2006)
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27th out of 113 books — 55 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 611)
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Sue
This book is set in 1970 from the POV of a teen girl with cerebral palsy who is attending a summer camp for disabled teens for the first time. She has always striven to be considered "normal" and when faced with a camp full of others with disabilities and a militant camper versed in Marxist theories, she begins to question her long-held beliefs. The subject matter is important for young people. Having grown up in a world of disability awareness and personal rights, it was uncomfortable to see th...more
Becca
Harriet McBryde Johnson may have looked at her life as being "too late to die young;" however, she died younger than she should have and her unique, powerful voice was lost to us. I tend to be skeptical about freshman novels, skeptical about the first person, skeptical about authorial self-inserts and skeptical about manifestos parading as novels. Accidents of Nature falls into all of the above categories; however, it is transcendent.

First and foremost, for a lawyer with no formal training on cr...more
Ally
Jun 23, 2011 Ally rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone. Especially those going into PSW or special education careers
*mild spoilers ahoy*

Loved this book. Well, okay, some of it rubbed a bit too raw, and the scene of the counselors teasing the campers sexually made me absolutely sick to my stomach, but only because it was so true. It's gritty and sharp and smart and mean, but it's also real and sort of sweet, in it's way. The scene with Robert yelling about the canoe made me cheer right along with the campers, and though I found Sarah an insufferable know-it-all about as often as Jean did, she was also so reali...more
Christina
This book is a good description of how it feels to have a disability, espeically cerebal palsy and mental retardation..The book is about a gropu of disabled group of teens who are at Camp Courage for ten days. Jean and Sara feel welcomed to a place where they fit in, and the camp gives them a new perspective on what it is like to be normal or disabled. They call themselves "crips" (or crippled), and other nicknames.

I would not purchase this for my school, even if I was a high school librarian....more
Alana
A must read for people with disabilities and our allies...teens and adults, and parents who want to guide their children with disabilities into a positive future equipped to live full lives of dignity and choice.

Harriet McBryde Johnson "gets it" and explains it to the rest of us through the thoughtful and passionate Jean, a young woman with cerebral palsy staying for the first time at a sleep-over camp for "cripples." Set in 1970, Jean meets the militant, the meek, and everything in between amon...more
Kate
Apr 06, 2011 Kate rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Kate by: Teen Book Club selection
Jean has cerebral palsy, but likes to think of herself as normal. Then she is sent to Camp Courage, aka Crip Camp, and meets Sara, another girl with CP who feels very strongly about the way the "Norms" treat the "Crips." As Jean observes the other campers, she begins to question whether it is better to identify as Norm or as Crip.

I could not help to compare this book to Izzy, Willy-Nilly, which I read last month for the same book club. Izzy and Jean seem to have similar personalities and thought...more
Anne Broyles
Seventeen-year-old Jean has lived with cerebral palsy her entire life, attends "normal school" and does not think of herself as "different" until she goes to Camp Courage (nicknamed Camp Crip). For the first time in her life, Jean is confronted with differently-abled peers. Her new friend, Sara's caustic humor and in-your-face attitude spark internal changes in Jean.

This book's characters are quirky, strong, and believable. The plot moved quickly and kept me fascinated. The main character is not...more
Jennifer
This book is extremely good in it's own right, but definitely the best that I have read that falls into the genre about disabilities (not that I've read many, and not that many even exist). I think that it's well worth its while for anyone to read for an honest, funny, sharp novel about that gives insight into the disabled community/culture. The novel isn't sentimental, and impressed me with its non-Pollyanna-type ending and the author's description of the main character's sudden coming-of-age m...more
Marcia
Feb 15, 2010 Marcia rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: ya
The story of handicapped teens at a summer camp. The talk of "Crips" "MRs", "Norms" and "Spazes" was weird at first; the author suffered from a neuromuscular disease and clearly had first hand knowledge of what life was like for these teens. I liked that it showed a population that is hardly ever featured in books. I liked that they showed these teens having the same kinds of feelings and desires that all teens have. It focused on the campers day as they participated in the way that they were ab...more
Jay
Sep 10, 2008 Jay rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Youth, young adults, people with disabilities, disabled people, parents of disbled kids
I would have hyperfocussed on this
historical fiction for a decade had I read it as
a youth- a crip summer camp where
two young adults encounter each
other and leave changed. There's
little smulch but much sexuality.
While clearly written from a disabled pride and rights perspective, it fills a deep void in fun teen literature that deals with reality and questions oppression. I cried when it reached the end, both because it hit close to home and because I didn't want it to be the end of a unique e...more
Melody
Nuanced and engaging portrait of that moment in time before people got that telethons suck. Also before people got that "mixing the races" was no big deal. The narrator's syrupy southern accent was a bit distracting, as were the Mary Sue tendencies of Sara, but overall I enjoyed the story of Jean's awakening. I dug the insight into the struggles of Jean, who has CP, to communicate, and how it felt when her body didn't go along with the wishes of her mind.
Cara
May 03, 2011 Cara added it
I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!! MY FAVORITE BOOK EVER!!
Nanci
I tried to like this book but could not. Honestly I don't know why. Jean has Cerebral Palsy. She grew up in a town where she was the only disabled person. She attended a high school with the "norms " and grew up thinking she was just as capable. She is sent to Camp Courage, a camp for disabled teens. This is Jean's first experience being around other disabled people. The story takes place over her 10 days at camp. I think I didn't like it because by the end of the book, Jean has changed her thou...more
Erin
I have not read many books about characters who have disabilities...because there aren't that many out there. And honestly, I stumbled upon this one by happy accident.

The main character, 17-year-old Jean, has CP and is spending part of her summer away from her family (at Camp Courage) for the first time. Jean has successfully gone to a "norm" school all her life, and has always done her best to negotiate the realities of "norm" life, getting good grades and having "norm" friends. At Camp Courage...more
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Mechele R. Dillard for TeensReadToo.com

Jean feels fantastic about her place in the world. Why shouldn’t she? She’s seventeen, an honor student at Crosstown High School, her friends are great, and her family supports all of her dreams. But this summer, Jean spreads her wings, away from the cocoon of her parents, friends, and her small town, and spends time at Camp Courage--“Crip Camp,” as the campers sarcastically refer to it--a camp for children with physical and mental disabilities,...more
Dani
filled with humor, a little bit of disability pride, some negative stereotypes that are placed on people with disabilities (and the one's that people with disabilities place on the nondisabled, too) For note, there are many terms while historically accurate may come across as offending, but overall the purpose of the story is to show that people with disabilities do not want, (nor do they deserve in my opinion) pity, charity or anything like a telethon (more on that in the text) But, it is impor...more
Bethany Joy
Pros:
- Unique insight into the world(s) of teenagers with disabilities in an ability oriented society. This is something needed in teen fiction (and for adults who work with or live with teenagers who have disabilities too).
- The book dealt well with a lot of challenging issues - the de-sexualization of people with physical/cognitive disabilities, the negative effects of many fundraising attempts (i.e. Telethons), and the dangers of categorizing people with disabilities as heroes, victims, ange...more
Cat
I picked this book up at random (well..mostly to increase the circulation of our audio books and because listening to audio books has become something short of an obsession.). I had no idea what it was going to be about and to be honest I almost stopped listening after the first few minutes.

I was sure I wouldn't be able to relate to this book for two reasons. (1) It takes place in the 70's, a decade I didn't have the pleasure to live through. (2) It is about the disabled.

However, I pursued thi...more
Shelley
I try pretty hard to stay away from books and movies about people with special needs. It's so rarely done right. (My one exception is Al Capone Does My Shirts which is brilliant as a book and as an example of sibling life.) So I was nervous about this one, but the author has CP, so I figured it was worth a shot.

I liked Sara, who was very clearly the author stand-in. And the Talent Night skit was the most brilliant thing I have ever read - The Telethon to Stamp Out Normalcy (take THAT, Jerry Lew...more
Alisa
There's something about female Southern narrators that drive me nuts. I almost stopped the CD after the first 10 minutes, but am glad I carried on.

This is your basic summer camp story, with friendships, swimming, and macaroni art, culminating in the big end-of-camp talent show. But since this is "Camp Courage" for kids with disabilities, everything got a new slant. Narrator Jean, goes to 'norm' school, is a veteran of telethons, and thinks that 'inside' she is just like everybody else. Her new...more
Stevecrandell
Jean is 17, and has cerebral palsy. She can’t walk, can’t feed herself. She can’t even wipe herself when she uses the bathroom. But she can tell the world who she is. Jean describes her spasms, and her disgust with her rebelling body. She also shares her high school success and plans for college, as well as her fantasies of love and sex, and a life that could somehow approach “normalcy.”

The story is set at a summer camp for disabled people. Jean portrays her campmates with the same discerning e...more
Synesthesia
I would like to see more books like this. A book written in the perspective of someone with a disability by a person with a disability that isn't just about how the disability is something bad that happened to the family, but something the individual deals with and adapts to. It frustrates me to read so many ableist omg your existence is soooooo tragic kind of books.

This deals with kids at a camp for disabled kids and shows how they wishes are not respected in the sense of wanting to see a movi...more
Owen
I love books that give me new insight into someone else's experience on this earth. Accidents of Nature delivers. This young adult novel is a fast read with an engaging story line that still manages to get you thinking about bigger issues.
Janine
OK, this is probably more of a 3.5 than a 4, but because it is unique and the amount of material that accurately portrays people with disabilities is somewhat underwhelming, I'm rounding up. Besides, I have great respect for this author.
This is basically a book about summer camp with all the normal summer camp stuff, except that the camp is for children with disabilities. Harriet McBryde Johnson beautifully captures the conflicting feelings of the main character, Jean, who belongs, alternately,...more
Kelly
This unique young adult book takes place in 1970 at a camp for children with disabilities. The book is fantastic. This is a population not often the focus of a story and you are in the mind of one of the girls in the story. One of the campers is frustrated by how society always wants them to be "normal" kids and wants to rebel and force people to see them as people. The book really provides a platform to begin thinking about how we look at people with disabilities. Why can't we begin to value th...more
Georgina Windebank
this book is about a seventeen year girl named jean
jean has cerebral palsy and is wheelchair-bound,
but tries to live a normal life as possible.
She then arrives at camp Courage and meets a girl called Sara,
she welcomes her to 'crip camp' and also nicknames her
'spazzo'.
Sara is full of rage and revolution against the unthinking condescension of the able-bodied and her company, Jean's world view shifts.
The camp session is only ten days long,
but that may be all it takes to change a life forever.
I...more
Jamie
This book is about 17 year old Jean who has cerebral palsy. Jean gets around in a wheelchair and attends “normal” school. In fact, Jean doesn’t really know any other disabled person. For the first time, Jean attends Camp Courageous, otherwise known as “Crimp Camp” by the campers. While at camp, Jean meets Sara, a girl who has different ideas about people and society. Sara is disrespectful to others disabilities and is angry about the way disabled people are treated. As Jean learns about people o...more
Ashley
This book, set in the 70s, follows a girl with cerebral palsy through a week at a camp for special needs youth. Although sometimes I felt Jean's thoughts and feelings were spelled out too explicitly, her emotions overdone, this book offers plenty of food for thought, and I find scenes of it coming to mind often. Although it's disturbing to think that in the 70s children with ASTHMA were seen as disabled, I think the portrayal of treatment of disabled individuals is pretty accurate.

A few elements...more
Linda
Well done audio book! Book worth reading too. Excellent perspective into the world of the"crips", or crippled. The story takes place in 1970, before there were federal laws protecting anyone with a handicap, and the characters are at "crip camp", aka Camp Courage, for ten days. Jean, the narrator, has cerebral palsy , but this is her first experience, other than telethons, to be around others with either physical or mental handicaps. During this ten day overnight camp, she learns a lot about oth...more
Rachel
Realistic portrayal of a disabled character (added insight since the author is disabled), however it lacks emotion and the ending offers no change (and ultimately only more questions) you don't see any movement change in the characters and the main character disappears in the last few pages. Hard to pinpoint the theme, and the setting of the 1970s while understandable intrudes a little to much and does not add to the ultimate conclusion. Note some content may not be suitable for all readers. Rev...more
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Harriet McBryde Johnson (July 8, 1957 - June 4, 2008) was an American author, attorney, and disability rights activist. She was disabled due to a neuromuscular disease and used a motorized wheelchair.

Johnson, who was born in eastern North Carolina, lived most of her life in Charleston, South Carolina.

In 2002, Harriet Johnson debated Peter Singer, challenging his belief that parents ought to be abl...more
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