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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Review: Blind Spot by Laura Ellen

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There’s none so blind as they that won’t see. 
Seventeen-year-old Tricia Farni’s body floated to the surface of Alaska’s Birch River six months after the night she disappeared. The night Roz Hart had a fight with her. The night Roz can’t remember. Roz, who struggles with macular degeneration, is used to assembling fragments to make sense of the world around her. But this time it’s her memory that needs piecing together—to clear her name . . . to find a murderer. 
This unflinchingly emotional novel is written in the powerful first-person voice of a legally blind teen who just wants to be like everyone else.

I'm just going to come out with it: This book made me angry. Like, throw-the-book-across-the-room-and-glare-at-it angry. But, in an effort to calm myself, I'll start with what I actually liked about Blind Spot.

The main character, Roz, suffers from macular degeneration, leaving her legally blind. She constantly struggles to make up for this deficit as she maneuvers her way through high school, but her eyesight is, unsurprisingly, always on her mind, making her self-conscious and lowering her self-esteem. Constantly frustrated from feeling helpless and out of her element in many situation while still wanting to be able to handle everything herself and without help, Roz has a tendency to jump to conclusions and snap at those around her, even those with the best intentions. This aspect of the novel felt very realistic to me. My younger sister was born with glaucoma and I think she'd identify closely with Roz. I can't say what goes on inside my sister's head, but I do know how she reacted to things when she was in high school and, from my point of view, Roz had similar reactions and thoughts. In the novel, Roz points out that people don't realize how poor her vision is and are constantly asking why she doesn't just get glasses. She can't drive and isn't able to play sports because she's a liability. These are all things my sister struggled with. Also like Roz, my sister could be a bit angry. She didn't like wearing her glasses, which improved her vision but left her feeling dorky and unattractive (which is not fun for anyone, let alone a high school-aged girl), and new situations were extremely stressful because she couldn't see to figure things out. 

This is where the similarities between my sister and Roz end, right along with my positive feelings regarding Blind Spot. My biggest issue? I absolutely loathed all of the characters. Okay, that might be a bit dramatic... there were a few secondary characters that weren't mentioned enough to warrant such strong feelings. Still, when I can't stand any of the main characters, it makes it hard to want to keep reading. I just felt like I couldn't escape the negativity! I feel like I'm uniquely qualified to understand and handle Roz and her moodiness, but her self-centeredness and hurtful ways pushed me over the edge. The teachers, the police, Roz's friends, her mother, her boyfriend: all horrible, mean people motivated by self-interest and unwilling to see things from any point of view other than their own. I know it's a strong word, but I was truly disgusted. Realistically,  I know that there are people like this in real life, people that let power go to their head, etc, etc, but to have an entire novel populated with them was too much for me. I will say that I actually did enjoy the character Tricia, but she's dead from the first page, so it's hard to tell if my positive feelings would have lasted. Tricia, however, was the only character who, though monumentally messed up, actually seemed to do some genuinely nice, even protective, things for Roz without expecting anything in return.

I have to admit though, I don't really know whether my strong negative feelings were necessarily a bad thing. Yes, I said I was disgusted and unhappy and wanted to stop reading, BUT I didn't. And I keep telling everyone about this book and the messed up characters... So maybe the author, Laura Ellen, meant for her characters to be disliked. Or maybe she didn't mean for it to happen, but it still isn't the worst thing that could have happened. I suppose having no opinion of the characters or easily forgetting them would be even worse than hating them. It's hard for me to accept that, at least in this case, hating a book or characters might actually be a good thing rather than a bad thing.

Despite being very unhappy with pretty much all of the characters, I kept reading because I really wanted to know what happened to Tricia. It really bothered me that the one person who wasn't completely horrible ended up dead and I had to know what happened to her. I finished the final pages feeling pretty unsatisfied and upset, but Blind Spot hasn't been far from my mind since and I'm still trying to sort out my feelings.

In conclusion, I want to tell you to read this book. And avoid it. I can't decide. I want to know what you all think, but I also don't want you to feel so ripped apart and frustrated by what you'll find inside. I suppose you'll just have to read at your own risk.

Harcourt Children's Books, October 2012, Hardcover, ISBN: 9780547763446, 336 pages.


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