People who live in the UK might have heard about the YA Book Prize: it's an award for the best UK young adult book and the winner will be announced in March. However, there is already a shortlist with 10 of the best UK YA books of 2014. Up until March, I will read each of these books (one a week) and post a review - I'm reading the books in the same order as the YA Book Prize twitter account is.
If one thing has been proven by the YA Book Prize shortlist, it is that there is no lack of diversity in UK YA. There have been horror stories, love stories and mythological stories and Find A Voice by Kim Hood is the journey of finding a voice (duh!) for two people who don't fit the teenage standards at all.
Jo could never have guessed that the friendship she so desperately craves would come in the shape of a severely disabled boy. He can’t even speak. Maybe it is because he can’t speak that she finds herself telling him how difficult it is living with her eccentric, mentally fragile mother.
Behind Chris’ lopsided grin and gigantic blue wheelchair is a real person — with a sense of humour, a tremendous stubborn streak and a secret he has kept from everyone.
For a while it seems life may actually get better. But as Jo finds out just how terrible life is for Chris, and as her own life spirals out of control, she becomes desperate to change things for both of them. In a dramatic turn of events, Jo makes a decision that could end in tragedy.
This is the story of how an unusual friendship unlocks the words that neither knew they had.
Jo : drama queen
I must admit that I find it really difficult to discuss this book. I finished it in one go, which is a good sign since it means I loved it so much. But on the other hand, I also read it so fast because it was just really easy to read. I know that I'm not the young adult age anymore and maybe it has to do with that, but I lacked a bit of depth in the book.
Jo is a great girl and narrator and the reader really roots for her. I was, until the end of the story, when she suddenly does something so stupid and so drastic that it just didn't make sense to me. It seemed out of character and it's my little pet peeve to hate on inconsistent characters. I immediately lost all sympathy for her.
She was just a bit too dramatic for me and though I understand her difficult background (she has a mentally unstable mother), I don't see the need for many of her actions. I admire her journey to finding her voice, but it would have been nice if she was less drastic and whiney about it in the process.
Chris : The Real Hero
Chris on the other hand was one of my favourite characters ever - even though he can't talk or do much. He has such a kind heart and I really wanted him to find his voice, or at least a way to express what he was thinking. The strength of Chris as a character is that he isn't a narrator and we don't even have dialogue with him, but Kim Hood shows us enough of his life and who he is to make us fall in love with him.
It's so important that there is diversity in YA and showing a disabled person as a real person is amazing. I think it will really help teenagers to start treating disabled people like they are just normal people you can be friends with. I applaud Kim Hood for tackling such a challenge subject in such an easy read.
However, I wish I would have had more depth about the disability. Because the whole story is narrated by Jo, who has (albeit common) preconceptions about disability, I don't feel we learned enough about Chris. Jo does make a journey into understand Chris better, but the whole ending is so fairy tale that the lessons that are learned are kinda lost.
I'll give this book a 3.5 out of 5 stars (yes, I'm doing half again). I didn't personally love it, but I think the topic is so so important that these kind of books should be encouraged. I think it's really one of those books that you should pick up yourself and read so you can decide if you love it or not. Even if you don't, like me, you'll still learn from it.