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Accidents of Nature

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  647 ratings  ·  132 reviews
Seventeen-year-old Jean has cerebral palsy and gets around in a wheelchair, but she's always believed she's just the same as everyone else. She goes to normal school and has normal friends. She's never really known another disabled person before she arrives at Camp Courage. But there Jean meets Sara, who welcomes her to 'Crip Camp' and nicknames her Spazzo. Sara has radica ...more
Hardcover, 229 pages
Published May 2nd 2006 by Henry Holt & Company
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Brody Anderson Absolutely not. It is a great book. 10 days at a handicapped summer camp following a campers interactions with her other cabin mates, etc. Funny, seri…moreAbsolutely not. It is a great book. 10 days at a handicapped summer camp following a campers interactions with her other cabin mates, etc. Funny, serious, a sad moment or two, but nothing depressing.(less)

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Average rating 3.66  · 
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This is an odd choice for me & not likely one I'll repeat. I'm a norm (pretty much, anyway) & don't really even know anyone who isn't. I don't know why this even came to my attention, but it did & I read the author's bio - she was disabled & very active in the community. She didn't like the Jerry Lewis telethon, called it demeaning. Why?

I had my suspicions & they turned out to be correct. Kids that are born with MLS, CP, or some other debilitating disease or defect look different so people trea
April (Aprilius Maximus)
Aug 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
I learnt so much reading this! I admire Harriet McBryde Johnson so much and all that she did in her life to educate people and fight for equality for people with disabilites!
Jun 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: disability
I will write a real review of this book when I've had some time to think about it, but all I can say about it right now is wow!

This was easily one of the most surprising reads of the last year. In a media and literary environment filled with YA romances tainted in tragedy and so-called "overcoming" narratives, this book is a welcome and much needed alternative. This book is explicitly not interested in appeasing people who like to belittle or treat disabled folks of all sorts like they ha
Mar 30, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Jun 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Apropos to this time of year, Accidents of Nature is all about summer camp. Camp Courage is for children with a variety of special needs. The campers have labelled these needs themselves with names like "Spaz, crip, para, quad, Ausie, and walkie-talkie." Jean, who has Cerebral Palsy, has been raised in a "normal" school. Her first ever summer camp is also her first exposure to other kids with disabilities. Luckily, she meets Sarah right away. Sarah has been to Camp Courage for eight straight yea ...more
Apr 05, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Miss Ryoko
Jun 19, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: young-adult
Actual rating: 2.5

Agh.... I'm very conflicted with how I feel about this book. On one hand, I think it was very well written. Because Harriet McBryde Johnson has actually "been there done that" she was able to write on a level no "norm" would have been able to. Her words speak truths beyond just fictional storytelling. Jean's thoughts, opinions, fears, desires, all of that was further believable to the audience because the author had experience with it. There is something about the realness that
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
Jun 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Chloe Halpenny
Jul 18, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
“Tell the people what it’s like to live with a horrible condition like normalcy.”

Set in 1970 at a summer camp for disabled teens, Accidents of Nature tells the story of a young woman with Cerebral Palsy. Jean has always thought of herself as aspiring to and succeeding at being “normal” - until a week at camp with some radical new friends flips her worldview on its head.

The books challenges mainstream narratives about disability in an authentic, accessible, and sometimes tough way. I especially
May 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
May 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 04, 2010 rated it liked it
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
May 15, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: heard
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. ...more
Nov 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
An honest, unsympathetic portrayal of teens with disabilities. The audio book version is very well done. A compelling read.
Nov 12, 2008 rated it liked it
In the summer of 1970, a seventeen year old Jean, has cerebal palsy. She visits her first camp, Camp Courage, and is forver changed after ten days there. A depressing story, but well worth reading.
May 03, 2011 added it
Mar 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Marvelous story about handicapped people. Recommend it.
May 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya-read, owned-books
Such a heartwarming read
Sep 04, 2020 rated it it was ok
So... I really don't know where to begin with this book.

First, I want to say thank you to Harriet McBryde Johnson for having written this book. I understand that she had a physical disability and wanted to write a book from an honest perspective.

I also understand that this book is set in the 70s, and as someone born in the late 90s there is only so much that I'm going to be able to relate to it all. On one hand I understand why the book is set in the 70s, but on the other hand I wonder why bec
Kristeen Hughes
Jun 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Round up to 4.5 stars.
Oct 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: disability, ya
Written by disability-rights activist Harriet McBryde Johnson, who had muscular dystrophy, this novel is set in a summer camp for disabled people, in 1970. I have never before read a book where all major characters are disabled: usually, novels about disabled people focus on the protagonist trying to interact with and fit into the abled world. But this novel is about throwing that idea away: it's about how the disabled body is something to celebrate, and disabled people do not have to change to ...more
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Mechele R. Dillard for

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,
Aidan Hartell
Jan 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Dustin Cooper
Nov 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
If you get into non-fiction books that speak the truth then the book Accidents Of Nature is the book for you. The book mainly takes place at a crip camp “Camp Courage”. Jean is the main character and she meets new friends and has new experiences. Jean has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair. Jean thinks of herself as being as normal as anyone else in that era. She doesn’t let anyone discourage her, and we all can learn from Jean and no matter what you can go on with life after an accident or i ...more
Elizabeth Hubbard
Oct 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Accidents of Natureis about Jean, a 17 year old with cerebral palsy and gets around in a wheelchair, but she's always believed she's just the same as everyone else. She goes to normal school and has normal friends. She's never really known another disabled person before she had arrived at Camp Courage. But there Jean meets Sara, who welcomes her to 'Crip Camp' and nicknames her Spazzo. Sara has radical theories about how people fit into society. She's full of passion and rage against pitying in ...more
Sep 05, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: youth
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
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Around the Year i...: Accidents of Nature, by Harriet McBryde Johnson 1 8 Apr 13, 2019 01:33PM  

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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

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