CatchTheseWords's Reviews > Farsighted

Farsighted by Emlyn Chand
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it was ok
bookshelves: disabled-char

Oh no, I thought as I read the first couple of paragraphs of this book. Already, the main character, a blind teenager named Alex has mentioned his super sonic hearing. This would be cool if blind people actually had the power to hear blades of grass moving, which sadly we don't. We are, much to the disappointment of your average person, incredibly normal. He also can sense whenever a person is looking at him, because the air around him begins to vibrate...again, this is not a blind superpower we possess...mainly because we don't have any.

He is also given a new pair of sunglasses by his parents. Within the first chapter I've come across two major tropes, and I'm starting to lose hope. Some blind people do wear sunglasses, but mostly people with residual vision. This is because they have photophobia, meaning they are extremely light sensitive, they are wearing the glasses for the exact same reason sighted people do, to dim the sunlight. Alex however is wearing them because he is blind...and for no other reason. He also, for some odd reason wears boots that supports his ankles in case he falls. I'm really trying to figure this out, he's blind, rather than having balance issues.

The author seems to have also missed a lot of basic information where technology is concerned. For example, Alex mentions he uses a braille keyboard. At first, I assumed this was referring to a braille display, with internal memory. And yet then he says he has to print out his notes on a braille printer (embosser for the rest of us), so that can't be the case. As far as I know, there is no way such a system would be put in place. It's unfortunate, because it implies that blind people are really limited in school, whereas in reality technology gives us so many options that enable us to take notes and access them, as well as our textbooks. Later, the author clarifies that the boy is using a computer with a braille keyboard, which is why he can't go back to check his notes. This made me very sad, there is so much information online about how blind people access computers with a screen reader, giving us the ability to use it fully. And yet the author says that he needs a braille keyboard to type, and has no way of reading his notes other than hard copy braille. Later in the book, the author contradicts herself by saying Alex has a talking web browser. Again, this indicates a lack of research as we would use a computer with a screen reader, rather than a specific web browser. But if he can access the internet, why then can't he read his notes in class. It was these contradictions and the complete butchering of the technology we use that bothered me. These are really, really easy things to get right. Even simple google searches will bring up information on how we access computers.

He also is unable to submit work without someone converting his braille into print. Again, this demonstrates a lack of research because most blind students either use a braille note taker, which has email, or the ability to transfer work to a USB, or a computer. Either way, there is no need for someone to transcribe the work.

There is also face touching, a trope that makes many blind people shudder. It's an invasion of personal space, and the idea that we would randomly start touching people actually makes us quite uncomfortable. In this situation, Alex touches his dads face to make sure it's really him. I'm going to be honest, the way I'd tell if it was my parent definitely would not be through face touching, ever. It crosses a barrier that I am just not willing to, and I know virtually no other blind people who would ever want to touch someone's face.

It's disappointing that the author chose to stand by tropes, because there was a lot of potential in this book. In fact, I didn't dislike the paranormal elements of it. For me, those were the best parts of the story, however sadly it was all overshadowed by the poor characterisation. There is mystery and danger, a teenager trying to get a hold on his abilities and a cast of characters who are behaving in ways you don't understand. All in all, it could have been a great book. I continued to read it because of these things, I genuinely wanted to know what would happen to Alex. And it was this, more than anything, that made the lack of research so disappointing. Every time I began to really enjoy the story it would be punctuated by a huge, glaring stereotype and push me away again.

I'm not sure that I'll read the rest of the series. The story was ok, at times I was genuinely caught up in it, but overall it wasn't wonderful.

I want to encourage people to write books with a diverse set of characters, but please, please do your research. Most people with disabilities are more than happy to answer questions, mostly because we don't see positive portrayals in the media, and if we can help then we will. By asking you will be far more successful. There is nothing worse than picking up a book with a character that has the same disability as you to find it disappointing. Not only because you can't identify with them, but because you know that others reading it won't see how inaccurate it is. Other people who pick up this book will think I'm unable to take notes and hand in work in school without the help of a sighted person, that I have heightened senses and I need to wear sunglasses wherever I go to hide my face. None of these things are true. By spreading these tropes you are harming the community that you wish to help. With research and communication with people with disabilities this doesn't have to be the case.


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Reading Progress

Started Reading
February 8, 2015 – Shelved
February 8, 2015 – Finished Reading
April 30, 2015 – Shelved as: disabled-char

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