Saturday, January 22, 2011

Book Musings: Girl, Stolen

Girl, Stolen (Christy Ottaviano Books)
Girl, Stolen by April Henry

I wanted to love this book. The main character, Cheyenne is blind, but that's not her big problem. She's been kidnapped by a guy who just wanted her stepmother's car. Now THAT'S a problem. She is creative, and tries to solve her own problem, which is impressive because her problem is huge. All very, very good things for a book with a disabled protagonist. 

Unfortunately, I found two snags: one disability related, and one not. Henry falls into the trap a lot of authors fall into when dealing in disability. Preachiness. There's a paragraph explanation of Braille, and the unnecessary "every blind person had their own way of folding money to tell it apart". Does it matter? Can't we just know that Cheyenne does it?

Secondly, the tone of the book felt off. I think it had a middle-grade tone in a YA book. Cheyenne seems incredibly innocent and doesn't have many traits except blindness. Her exclamation that the narrator of the Harry Potter books "uses a different voice for each book!" seemed so childish to me. Maybe she's just sheltered, but I didn't like her innocence being associated with her disability.

The tone, and even the cover of the book, felt too light for the direness of her situation. Kidnapping, murder, child abuse, they all feel so out of place, but they're in the novel. A few twists were just too big for the stage that had been set.

Also some facts felt off to me, though I'm sure the author researched. Cheyenne had gone to rehabilitation when she became blind, which made sense, but when she talked about her guide-dog there was no mention of guide-dog training. That's an intense program, and since it says she couldn't get a dog until she was sixteen I wondered when she'd had the few months to go through it.

I didn't like that she wasn't blind from birth. It seemed unnecessary when it let in the "woe is me, I feel so different now" thoughts. Yes, she grows considerably and takes independent steps and maybe feels that way less. But there were other ways to have growth. Blindness was another layer to the kidnapping plot, fine, but giving a blind-from-birth heroine would give another demographic of teen someone to look up to, as well as educating non-disabled teens. The book seemed too focused on the latter.

But I would recommend it. The adventure is fun, and Cheyenne kicks butt. It just wasn't all I hoped for.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I didn't make her blind from birth because I didn't think I could carry it off. I didn't think I could adequately imagine never having had one of my senses. And the Harry Potter comment came directly from a blind high school student in Eugene, Oregon.