Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Real Kids Like Me!

I read this book two nights ago. I'm not calling this a full review, because let's face it, only a disability studies obsessed weirdo is going to track it down (ie me). It's just as ridiculously eighties as you'd expect from the cover. The girl, Amanda, is spending the summer on the island where the pilgrims first landed (as opposed to settled). The boy, Jake, is a deaf boy who lives on the island helping his father, a lobster fisherman. I liked that Jake's deafness wasn't the only barrier between them, and thought the author handled it marginally well, with a bit of--oh, no of course he doesn't REALLY try to fit in at school. And, really, he's been deaf ten years and his father still needs him to sign slower?--but generally well.

But that's not what we're here to talk about. (I know, right?)

What I want to talk about is the sheer beauty of eighties romance novels. Amanda wears her boyfriend's ring on her finger, secured with adhesive tape. Her parents fly him out to the island for a week, and there's no suggestion of ya know, makin' whoopee. They lament not being able to 'phone like normal people, but she writes him long letters! Jake gives her his sweatshirt! He rides up to her house an a horse named Lightening.

There's just the right amount of pointed feminism, too. Jake bets Amanda she can't ride Lightening as well as she can. He tricks her by not bringing a saddle but, oops!, Amanda can ride bareback! And pilot the boat! And dig for clams! (But she'll only throw the rake away if she's searching for Chris's ring.)

There's even a scene where they shower together with all their clothes on.

It's beautiful. And on the last page, scholastic helpfully gave me a list of books to read about "real kids like me!"

If this was what being a "real kid" was like in 1989, then we've gone downhill since. Maybe it's my fault. I was born that year.

To quickly get back on the disability soapbox, the last chapter annoyed me. Amanda teaches Jake to dance--which is great, I love that the author acknowledges that deaf doesn't mean he can't dance--but then she takes him to a party on the mainland and his friends exclaim that he never participates at these things! Look at Amanda humanizing him! Now, granted, the whole novel has been about her entering his world, but there was so little build up to the him-entering-her-world (which is really still his world at this point) that it felt forced.

Still, pretty good overall.


  1. "And, really, he's been deaf ten years and his father still needs him to sign slower?"

    Yes, really. And I'm amazed/impressed that the father signs at all (in the 80s, or, you know, ever), unless there's a lot of familial deafness. (On which topic, yay for stories about d/Deaf people on islands off Massachusetts, for which there's some good historical precedent!)

    1. I figured I'd get backlash on that. The thing is, I know that it happens a lot that parents don't learn ASL. But this kid and his family are particularly close--more than he is with anyone else--and it didn't feel cohesive for the story. It felt more like the author wanted to say "Look! Not even his dad tries to communicate with him in his language!" but didn't match up to the characters.

      (I know. I think it'd have been cooler if there'd been a Martha's Vineyared-esque community rather than this lone kid)