Cephalopod Coffeehouse November 2015–NOT IF I SEE YOU FIRST

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Hi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.

This month I’m reviewing a contemporary YA story that’s due to release next week, NOT IF I SEE YOU FIRST from Eric Lindstrom. Put it on your list of books to get for anyone who enjoys a well-told story about a girl just making her way through life, and getting into some scrapes along the way. Oh, and the main character, Parker, well, she gets into more scrapes than most because…she’s blind.

Not If I See You FirstAbout the book:

The Rules:

Don’t deceive me. Ever. Especially using my blindness. Especially in public.

Don’t help me unless I ask. Otherwise you’re just getting in my way or bothering me.

Don’t be weird. Seriously, other than having my eyes closed all the time, I’m just like you only smarter.

Parker Grant doesn’t need 20/20 vision to see right through you. That’s why she created the Rules: Don’t treat her any differently just because she’s blind, and never take advantage. There will be no second chances. Just ask Scott Kilpatrick, the boy who broke her heart.

When Scott suddenly reappears in her life after being gone for years, Parker knows there’s only one way to react-shun him so hard it hurts. She has enough on her mind already, like trying out for the track team (that’s right, her eyes don’t work but her legs still do), doling out tough-love advice to her painfully naive classmates, and giving herself gold stars for every day she hasn’t cried since her dad’s death three months ago. But avoiding her past quickly proves impossible, and the more Parker learns about what really happened–both with Scott, and her dad–the more she starts to question if things are always as they seem. Maybe, just maybe, some Rules are meant to be broken.

My Review:

Parker Grant lost her mother and her eyesight in a car crash when she was 8. She developed strong friendships and an even stronger bond with her father in the last 8 years. Unfortunately, Parker’s father died three months ago and her aunt’s family has moved across the country to live in her home, with her. Parker’s developed some tough rules, meant to protect her heart, and also her mind–especially after Scott–her former best friend and maybe first love, crushed her back in eighth grade.

It’s junior year and Scott has returned to Parker’s high school. Their small town has combined two schools into one, actually, which means there are lots of new people and new situations for Parker to encounter. She meets a new “buddy” Molly, a chaperone who helps her navigate the school day. Parker and Molly strike it off, mostly because Molly’s willing to be honest with Parker–whose default setting is brutal honesty. Parker wants to be treated like a regular kid, and she strives for this. It’s what draws her to Jason, a decent guy who treats her decently.

While Parker’s life is filled with people, she’s still rather solitary. She spends a lot of time with her young cousin, Petey, and none at all with her other cousin, Sheila, despite them being the same age and being in school together. All the school politics are on display, and despite a spark between Parker and Jason, it’s clear that Scott is still in the picture, too. Always on the fringes, Scott’s filling in the gaps he knows were left behind with Parker’s father died.

I really admired Parker. She’s brash, with the understanding that it’s not easy being disabled, and it’s even worse to be considered ‘less than’ because of her disability. She makes new and unlikely friends, and tries even more unlikely feats, including running. It’s refreshing to see how she navigates the world around her, and the high school foibles–including first dates and kisses. For all her outward strength, she’s a deeply thinking girl, and willing to own up to her mistakes–when she’s able to confront them. Her unflinching honesty can be abrasive, but she applies that to herself just as much as to others.

In a litscape filled with ordinary people, Parker shines in her extraordinary will to be as normal as possible. This is a story that doesn’t have a sweeping grand gesture, more like a series of realizations that don’t lead to reconciliations. Which was perfectly acceptable. As Scott and Parker recognize: they are not their 8th grade selves anymore, and what they had then is very different from what they have now. There is 2+ years of animosity and betrayal to overcome, and it’s not flipping a switch to turn back time and reconnect. That was a striking moment for both Parker, and the reader.

So many times YA stories are too convenient, with some mid-level conflict that is easily resolved. Nothing in this book is convenient or contrived. Parker’s cousin Sheila isn’t kind. Parker’s friends are a mixture of races, genders and sexualities with really different personalities. Parker’s aunt is rigid and easily offended–not able to cope with Parker’s need for autonomy. So, it’s all a big trial for Parker, to cobble all this scrip-scrap bits of life together into a patchwork quilt of people to support and love her. Including Scott.

Interested? NOT IF I SEE YOU FIRST releases Dec 1st, but you can find out more about it on Goodreads, and pre-order it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Powell’s Books. This first 9 chapters are up on Amazon and B & N for a free preview, in case you want to just check it out…

Thanks for popping in. Don’t forget to check out the other reviewers on this month’s blog hop. They always have great books to discover.

10 thoughts on “Cephalopod Coffeehouse November 2015–NOT IF I SEE YOU FIRST

    • She is a stone cold girl, but that also makes her very vulnerable, I think. Having that tough chick facade is isolating. And, she’s already isolated by disability. I’d be proud to know her, as her close friends all are. When people rail about needing diverse books, this one is a step in the right direction.

      • strangepegs says:

        First person has become the default to a whole generation of writers and 99% of it all sounds the same. Basically, read one, read them all.
        Or close enough.
        Every once in a while, one will stand out.

  1. I think there is a difference here with all the sensory info that’s part of the narrative, as Parker has to navigate her world using touch, sound and smell, not having vision to rely upon. She’s attached to numbers and counting, as well, due to counting out the paths she uses, and all her little tricks to get by. It felt very different for me, a more immersive experience than most of the YA reads I encounter.

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