I have to start off by saying this: I love my job here at Fangirlish. Contributing to the site gives me the opportunity to write about the things I love and immerse myself in every day, reach an amazing audience of fandom loving squee-freaks such as myself, and in some cases, help promote up and coming authors.
This is one of those times, but what makes it even better is that this particular author is part of the Fangirlish family! Which, for us, makes it even more amazing.
I was fortunate enough to get my greedy grabby hands on an advanced copy of Jandra Sutton‘s upcoming release Fragile before the July 5, 2017 release date. And before you ask if I enjoyed it, let me just say this: I devoured it in 2 nights, binge reading between night shifts at my ‘day job’, and thinking about the characters while at work.
She hooked me up.
What does it mean to be normal?
It’s such a loaded word, with about a billion different meanings, and every one of them makes Ava Collins sick.
At 17, Ava has been deaf for as long as she can remember. She grew up constantly reminded that she wasn’t – and couldn’t – be normal, that she needed to be ‘fixed’, but it wasn’t until she met Theo De Vries that she learned the truth.
Deaf doesn’t mean broken, it means different. And different isn’t a bad thing.
Sutton successfully pulled off a difficult merger between expected young adult romance and the incorporation of diversity without it seeming forced. For anyone who follows literary agents or anything book-ish on Twitter, you may be aware of the cry for diverse characters of all kinds; but the difficulty in this is making these characters their own, and apart from their diversity. Sutton did this with Ava, giving you a girl you can relate to on so many levels, even if you can never truly understand what it is like to be deaf. She is sassy, challenging, smart and engaging, and doesn’t let her condition (I hate the word disability) define her.
Granted, the world seems to try. High school is hard enough with everyone desperate to be unique while terrified to be different than their peers. The majority of the students at Ava’s school seem to dismiss her, treating her as almost invisible out of their own uncertainty and awkwardness. It is not a reflection of Ava, so much as societies continued struggle with what is different.
Enter Theo; the swoon-worthy knight in shining track shorts who is all the things Ava seems to think are beyond her. He is the popular kid, the smart kid with all the possibilities of the world at his fingertips. He is the epitome of teenage potential, but what makes you fall in love with Theo is not his perfection, but his ability to make Ava see the potential in herself, and bring her out of her shell.
In the end, Sutton throws a twist that left my heart aching and head scrambling to understand, but it was so gently done that you dont come away feeling destroyed. Broken, yes, but not completely.
Like I said, I loved the way Sutton was able to bring Ava’s condition into the story with such realism, without it defining her as a character. It was part of her, but she was so much more than that. She was the smart, sassy girl who refused to cower to the school bullies and in the end her quiet self confidence caught the eye of someone who would change her life.
For me, something I truly loved was the fact Ava didn’t want to change. At the age of 17, you want to be like your friends; and even though Ava knew adversity because of being deaf, she still didn’t want to change. Despite pressure from her mother to undergo surgery for cochlear implants, Ava knew she didn’t want to take the step; her ‘disability’ wasn’t that, it made her different and unique. That strength of character and understanding of self is something you don’t see enough in young adult novels, and I loved it.
For me, the story line of outcast girl gets pursued by school dreamboat was a little expected. It was softened by the unique and original main character, her internal dialogue full of wit and humor, and her struggles with incorporating into high school society pulling you away from the anticipated.
Honestly, this story was just enjoyable. It wasn’t pulling you in all directions, leaving you winded for the read. It was easy, flowed well, and left you laughing out loud at times with the characters wit. If you want literary young adult comfort food, this is it.