by Emlyn Chand
Young adult romance/supernatural featuring a blind teen by a new, self-published author. Alex Kosmitoras, who was born blind, is having a hard time. He's bullied and picked on by the other kids at his high school, and doesn't have any friends. His father is unemployed, and seems unhappy with his blind son. His mother dotes on him, but for a teenage boy, that's almost worse. But at the start of his sophomore year in high school, he makes friends with two new girls in his class, Simmi and Shapri. At the same time, though, he starts having visions of terrible things happening to his friends. Shapri's mother, a professional psychic who runs a fortunetelling shop, tells him he has a gift he needs to learn to use. But will he master his visions in time to save his friends?
This is an unusual book, in part because Alex is the first-person narrator. I have read dozens of books about blind people, but except for autobiography, I can't think of a single one that is narrated from the blind person's point of view. That alone makes it a devo-friendly read. It's a brave and original choice by the author, and she mostly pulls it off, but there are some slips. In several places Alex describes things going on around him that he could not know about, just little things like a gesture someone makes, but it was enough to be distracting. There are also some details that felt off to me. Instead of nodding yes, Alex snaps his fingers. Ok, I'm sure that's possible, but I have met many blind people and no one I have met does anything like that. There are a few discrepancies with Braille too. In one scene, Alex shows Simmi one of his Braille textbooks, and says the first word is "the" but anyone good enough at Braille to use it for schoolwork would be using level 3, which has abbreviations for common words like "the." It isn't spelled out the way it's described in the book. Also a single school textbook would run for many volumes in a Braille edition--it's very big and bulky. You can't just carry Braille books around in a backpack. But those are minor details.
On the other hand, I really liked the way Alex's "visions" were described. When I first read the plot description, I was afraid he would regain his sight in some fake magical way, or that he would just be used as a symbolic character. The blind seer, how trite. But it isn't like that at all. Alex "sees" the future the same way he encounters the rest of his world, that is, with his other senses. It's particularly confusing for him, and he often can't tell if what he's hearing is the present or the future. I found this quite original and interesting. And he's clearly a fully rounded character, not just a symbolic stand-in.
Overall I found this a fun read. Alex is an appealing and unusual character, and his growing feelings for both Simmi and Shapri are depicted in a very sweet way. I found the supernatural elements less satisfying than the romance, though. It takes a long time for that part of the story to get developed, and by the time it does, I found myself wishing we could just get back to the high school romance parts, since they were more nuanced and intriguing. The change in tone from romance to action is rather abrupt, as is the change in Alex's relationship with his father, which was not that convincing.
Also be warned, this is the first book in a series, so while the ending concludes some things, not everything is wrapped up. Also note that the next book will not be narrated from Alex's point of view, which is too bad, although presumably he will be in it.