Not the first historical romance I've read with a blind hero, and it's not the better of the two, but it handles the di...moreSpoilers abound.(view spoiler)[
Not the first historical romance I've read with a blind hero, and it's not the better of the two, but it handles the disability issue well. Ransom has some sight, and that's all the sight he gets. He was blinded by a traumatic brain injury (TBI, henceforth) and it has other consequences, such as headaches that leave him debilitated even when they end. At one point, he thinks he has to try and pass for sighted, but it blows up in his face and really, it's the last-ditch effort in this particular quandary (well, the next-to-last; last is an ermine with teeth).
One star down for certain clichés, like babies ever after and a Hollywood-plain heroine. Come on. Wild, curly, dark brown hair? She's not fat? She has enough bosom that she might fall out of the gown she borrows? Per-lease. But she thinks she's plain. No, honey. I'm plain. My hair is middling-brown and currently a little over pixie-length, so basically it's Biebtastic if I brush it into bangs; my sweater kittens are the runts of the litter; and I'm too short to be this lanky and skinny. Isolde -- Izzy -- thinks she's too plain for a blind man and I'm all "Hey, work with it, baby!"
They don't mind about plain. Not the ones who are worth your time. Trust me. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This story spun out from its beginning like a shell from its center. Normally I haven't the patience for slow fiction but this was slow fiction that h...moreThis story spun out from its beginning like a shell from its center. Normally I haven't the patience for slow fiction but this was slow fiction that had enough hooks to draw me (and the plot) forward. The interstitial chapters are not only a great idea to keep the reader curious but a (possibly unintentional) homage to The Grapes of Wrath, which plays a significant role in Amity's share of the book.
I hoped I would like it. I'm glad I was right. (less)
Okay, Ms. Verdi. You win. This was almost four stars because the pacing was very short-story, four-point-five because I could've spent ages longer in...moreOkay, Ms. Verdi. You win. This was almost four stars because the pacing was very short-story, four-point-five because I could've spent ages longer in this world...
...and five stars because you know your material in ways most people writing for this audience truly don't.
And also we are foot twins. If you are reading this, let me share my "we're also a 2.5-3 in kids' shoes" trick with you. [cough]
(view spoiler)[Lucy's birth mom comes back into the picture, Lucy gets angry, Lucy gets drunk at a club and goes home with musician Lee, who gives her HIV. Since Lucy's birth mom comes back pregnant, at first I was thinking "Baby?" And it didn't escape me that Verdi could also have taken this in the "date rape" direction, but she kept it simple. Lucy doesn't view what happened to her as particularly wrongbadawful until she realises it was unprotected. She isn't comfortable the next time she tries to have sex, that's for sure. But it's not melodrama.
Verdi hits notes with this that don't usually make it into issue!fiction. Yes, Lucy has two dads. She also has a drug-addled birth mom, Lisa, who turns up pregnant for the... not the second time, it's implied. Actually, this appears to be the first time that matters to Lisa, which is horrible for Lucy. Lucy's dads lived through the early part of the AIDS epidemic, and it's revealed that one of Lucy's "uncles", Patrick, died of AIDS when Lucy was six. Lucy is terrified of telling anyone. She does it in this order:
Boyfriend. Parents. The guy who gave it to her. Best friends. Best enemy, inadvertently. (Who makes a point of telling the principal because apparently someone remembered The Ryan White Story.)
Her boyfriend freaks -- but comes back to her. Her parents freak -- because of Patrick and their past, and the agony of realising your child may not outlive you. The guy freaks -- because there's a woman with him and also he may not have known his own status. But Lucy sends him a flyer for her support group in the end. Her best friends freak -- because they should've said earlier. Her best enemy freaks -- because they've had sex with the same person while Lucy was positive.
Lucy goes to a support group made out of perfectly ordinary people. She becomes friends with a fellow actress called Roxie, and it lands her a great gig. Lucy only goes because her dads know How To Do HIV/AIDS, and that's kind of awesome, seeing how supportive they are. With any other set of parents, it would be unrealistic, but these two understand. Lucy wants it kept from Lisa, and Lisa does not find out.
Lucy's first doctor is a judgy douche who treats her like misbehaving meat. I could have stood up and cheered when she demanded another doctor, because really? That is a lesson you have to learn when you live with a chronic illness. You have the right to respectful healthcare, which she does get with her second doc. She knows her dads want her on meds yesterday, but she is the one to make the decision for herself, based on her friendship with Roxie and how Roxie has survived nineteen years and only had a few opportunistic infections. For a girl who spends a lot of the book so focused on her own doom, that's a major turning point. She chooses to fight because she wants more than now. Verdi acknowledges that fighting means meds with sucky side effects. Lucy only has the fatigue and the dizziness (I'd never get that lucky) but the dizziness gets her arm sliced open onstage -- and her boyfriend Evan has to think fast in order to help her keep her secret, though the people who clean up after the accident (best friends Max and Courtney) kind of figure it out and are totally bummed to be right.
Notably, Lucy also stands up to Principal Asshat, who tries to bribe her into giving a How I Screwed Up My Life By Getting HIV speech in trade for no more gym... which Lucy rightly sees as Asshat trying to slut-shame AND reduce his own liability all at once. And she calls him on it. Booyeah. This is a character with a spine. Am I really reading YA published in 2013? Huh, yeah.
And after all that, this is a four-point-five until Lucy leverages her status into convincing the school to put on The Normal Heart instead of a musical that spring.
I didn't think any straight person knew about Larry Kramer, unless she had an interest in HIV/AIDS the way I've had since And The Band Played On in seventh grade. Jessica Verdi officially gets it. I would not be surprised if we had seen the same documentaries. I mean, that's not a chapter of HIV/AIDS history that gets acknowledged too often, but here it is, right on the page for younger readers to learn about it.
Then I thought back about the other details and realised this could not be fewer than five stars' worth of book. (hide spoiler)]
So. Picky old moi is telling you to read this, because it's worth your time and your emotions. Off to add the author on Twitter because I can. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This was published in 2001, about a fourteen-year-old girl going through some tough times. I can only conclude that California in 2001 must have been...moreThis was published in 2001, about a fourteen-year-old girl going through some tough times. I can only conclude that California in 2001 must have been a vastly different place from New York.
When I was fourteen, my friends were all shocked and appalled when I used words that were maaaaybe half as bad as Doreen uses. There were no eighth graders walking around in tiny plaid skirts. Nobody was talking about Bosnia. Nobody gave a shit what grunge was or listened to the Pixies. Nobody's parents acted like that.
I'm pretty sure this was a book about being fourteen in the mid-nineties, which is cool, but the mid-nineties were not the early-oughties.(less)