I didn't read the other books before this, Actually skipped to this one with no intention of reading the others at all because the female protagonistI didn't read the other books before this, Actually skipped to this one with no intention of reading the others at all because the female protagonist is disabled. I have been talking to disabled people, able-bodied writers, and disabled writers about how to write a disabled character and it's a pretty frustrating conversation. The ableist tropes are easy to fall into but writing a disabled character people will actually believe often leads you to do that.
I tried it myself a few years ago when I was included in a romance anthology; my protagonist was a disabled woman in a wheelchair. I thought I could make it realistic if I put her in exact situations I, also a disabled woman in a wheelchair, had been in. It went horribly. Disabled readers might have believed the probability of the things I had written but I had some able-bodied people look over the manuscript to see if it would translate to able-bodied readers and they all told me it was simply unbelievable. Even things they had been there for and experienced with me were too far-fetched for an able-bodied person who wasn't close to a disabled person to believe.
Chalk it up to lack of representation in the media. Finding a disabled characters hard. Finding a disabled female character is harder. Finding one in a wheelchair is nearly impossible.
There is also the problem that disabled people tend to not share a lot of the goings-on of their life with able-bodied people. You learn very early on as a disabled person that able-bodied people don't want to be around you if you don't pretend to be able-bodied. Sharing your life with someone as it is tends to freak able-bodied people out.
"Sorry I'm late, I had to go to the grocery store. This guy kept following me around the store and finally cornered me when I was alone in an aisle to ask me how I had sex. But they had Oreos on sell so I got you a pack."
You have to edit that down to "Sorry I'm always late, I brought cookies to make up for it"
So, given my experience I read this book with very low expectations and prepared myself to the very last word to be horribly disappointed and probably offended.
Kage really surprised me. The book worked, even for someone as cynical as I am. I don't have CP, although I had made a few friends who had it when I was in special education, so I'm not going to speak as to how realistic that was but it certainly read as if Kage actually knew what CP was. Nine out of ten times you can tell an author hasn't even googled a condition they give their character. Maybe Kage has CP or knows someone who does, I don't know, if she does it would be smart to pick that particular condition and I would really like to see her take on another character with something different.
I give this book 5 stars alone because it worked. It was over the top dramatic but that's what you expect from this genre, new adult, if it hadn't been like a soap opera it would've been a copout. There are enough reviews on the story itself so I'm just going to list the things that she did that made it work. Things that I'm definitely going to suggest to writers I work with in the future.
The protagonist had CP, a very specific type, but the condition was described very vaguely. It didn't read as avoidance, it read as if Kage actually thought her readers were intelligent. You got enough detail that it never seemed like she was watering down the disability but not that such excruciating detail that makes the character seem like an alien oddity. All the descriptions were relevant.
The protagonist was actually given a complicated life which included things that had nothing to do with her disability but were always colored by it to a certain extent. Most of the time disabled children are portrayed as having a family that feels blessed to have them, treats them like porcelain dolls, and keeps them incredibly sheltered. I've only known one disabled person who had a childhood like that (at least, it seemed that way to me) and he ended up thinking he was a prophet of God. Literally. I'm seriously not joking.
A friend of mine said she found out through Facebook that he is doing missionary work throughout Europe, so Europeans beware.
Anyway, on the other end of the spectrum we sometimes see disabled children who are resented and abused which unfortunately happens more often than not but aside from the first season of American Horror Story I've never seen it done remotely accurately.
And this is a spoiler and was a huge shocker to me: the character didn't die in the end or had a miracle cure, her condition actually got worse. Even better, the character took it in stride because that's what happens when you are disabled, you become more disabled as you go through life. The character was bummed that she lost some abilities but immediately just started brainstorming on what she needed to adjust in her life.
It is incredibly heartbreaking when you lose an ability, an aspect of your independence, but you really don't have the privilege to mourn the loss. If you don't make adjustments right now, this very second, you'll just lose more abilities and independence. The mourning happens but has to be parsed out.
Also pretty spot on was the fact that her loved ones didn't always know what to say or do for her. She constantly had to be telling them what she needed. It was great representation of the fact that your disability affects you differently every day, some of you may be familiar with what's called the spoon theory. Some days you can do your hair, sometimes you can't. Your loved ones are used to the inconsistency and don't just automatically know everything you need.
Finally, I love the clichés. The whole "the crippled girl got asked out on a dare" thing seems ridiculous but it's actually not. Sometimes it's these huge clichés that actually happen regularly to us and the fact that they seem cliché is a part of the problem that that leads to able-bodied people not knowing what our lives are like, or believing us.
"Has anyone ever… Like, has a stranger come up to you and gotten all religious? I don't mean, like, give you a faith healing or anything but – –"
Yes. Every time I leave the house I get preached at for obviously not loving Jesus enough or he would let me walk and I have been given a few faith healings against my will.
Even by doctors.
When I was 13 and in a Children's Hospital a priest from the connected chapel wandered into my room and without warning grabbed me and gave me a faith healing.
God told him I would walk out of the hospital.
Even if I could have I wouldn't, when you are released they insist that you use a wheelchair to get from your room to your vehicle home.