Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Recommended Reading: Accidents of Nature

Another book I got from the same list as Saffy's Angel, is Accidents of Nature by Harriet McBryde Johnson. It's told from the point of view of a girl with cerebral palsy who is attending a camp for kids with special needs for the first time.
It's the summer of 1970. Seventeen-year-old Jean has cerebral palsy, but she's always believed she's just the same as everyone else. She's never really known another disabled person before she arrives at Camp Courage. As Jean joins a community unlike any she has ever imagined, she comes to question her old beliefs and look at the world in a new light. The camp session is only ten days long, but that may be all it takes to change a life forever.

It's a little slow to start, but once you get past the basic character introductions it becomes a fascinating and quick read. I was especially touched by how the author explored societal views on "overcoming" various disabilities and the demeaning nature of a lot of supposedly helpful fund raising events. And I liked how Sarah and Jean navigate what it means to accept yourself as you are, without considering it some sort of failure not to live up to a prescribed arbitrary norm.

As a warning, Jean does express an initial distaste for some of the bodies around her at Camp Courage. She also struggles with her own body image, vividly comparing it to that of a female counselor who she perceives as representing the ideal. This could make some people uncomfortable, but I felt that it was a realistic portrayal of someone who had spent their entire lives being praised for their ability to "fit in" and who is therefore hesitant to identify with anyone other than the "Norms."

Recommended Reading is a recurring feature on this blog. I'm doing this in an effort to build a list of YA books that I believe are both great stories and treat people's bodies in a sensitive manner. I will do my best to point out things about books I suggest that might be triggering even if I feel the book as a whole is worthwhile. If you have suggestions for future recommended books or comments/criticisms of books I write about please feel free to leave them in comments.

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