Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom – Powerfully explores the duality of blindness and perception

Summary:

Parker Grant doesn’t need 20/20 vision to see right through you. That’s why she created the Rules: Don’t treat her any differently just because she’s blind, and never take advantage. There will be no second chances. Just ask Scott Kilpatrick, the boy who broke her heart.

When Scott suddenly reappears in her life after being gone for years, Parker knows there’s only one way to react—shun him so hard it hurts. She has enough on her mind already, like trying out for the track team (that’s right, her eyes don’t work but her legs still do), doling out tough-love advice to her painfully naive classmates, and giving herself gold stars for every day she hasn’t cried since her dad’s death three months ago. But avoiding her past quickly proves impossible, and the more Parker learns about what really happened—both with Scott, and her dad—the more she starts to question if things are always as they seem. Maybe, just maybe, some Rules are meant to be broken.

My review:

This book is not about blindness. This book is about a girl who is blind.

Though the differences between the two above may seem minute, it is an important distinction to make. If you approach this book with the former, you will probably be disappointed. Conversely, if you approach this book with the latter, you may enjoy it as much as I did.

Not If I See You First is as surprisingly delightful debut. A largely character-driven book, it offers layers and layers of character development that pairs and builds wonderfully with Parker’s blindness. I couldn’t stop taking notes whilst reading this book; it engaged me and I relished in its spectacular and nuanced writing and narrative.

Parker is, at first, unlikable. She is honest to a fault, wears her blindness like spiked armour, and cynical. For this reason, the book may take time to get into, but your patience will be rewarded; Parker’s character development is one of the most wonderful executions I have read in a long time. It’s almost poetic; given Parker’s plethora of flaws, that message is very pertinent to the reader’s perceptions of her. Parker is a seemingly caustic girl who is, underneath her exterior, a girl who thinks a lot and lets those thoughts affect her reality, is scared to trust people, and is trying to navigate new friendships without getting hurt but makes many mistakes in the process. She is a messy human being but delightfully so.

It’s a common belief that losing your sight heightens your other senses, and it’s true, but not by magnifying them. It just gets rid of the overwhelming distraction of seeing everything all the time.

Not If I See You First examines a handful of ideas, but there is one that I would like to highlight. At its heart, Not If I See You First explores the dual nature of perception; namely, the ability to see as well as how we view the world. It explores how blindness allows Parker to ‘see’ people clearly for who they are, but how that kind of perception also makes her ‘blind’ to how perceptions affect and change people. It is truly fascinating, and I enjoyed the duality and the complex parallel metaphors. More so, the book also sheds light on how so many of our social standards and social pressures are correlated with things that we can see, thus promising some pleasantly surprising truths about the book’s characters.

Essentially, Lindstrom has crafted a character and narrative that eloquently communicates the underlying themes of the book: that first impressions are not always correct and that appearances can be deceiving. It is also about how people change, and though we understand that fact about ourselves, we seldom understand and recognize that in others. And this holds true for the relationships between Parker and the other characters, which were fantastically written and remarkably down-to-earth. Can I also say that Parker’s friends were just so, so amazing?

Not If I See You First is a lighthearted and heartfelt book about a girl and how she makes mistakes, realizes she is and can be wrong, but grows and learns. It may explore a myriad of ideas, namely disabilities and ableism, grief, independence, family, friendship, love, growth, and change. The more I think about this book, the more I find and appreciate and the more I fall in love with it. Honest, profound, candid but also subtle, Not If I See You First is a wonderful debut, and I can’t wait to read more of Lindstrom’s work.

Rating: 4 / 5

Goodreads | Book Depository | My review on Goodreads


Is this book for you?

Premise in a sentence: A blind teen has to confront her past.

Perfect for: Readers who love an unlikeable character, and readers who likes book that subvert the status quo of contemporary novels.

Genre: Young adult, contemporary

Recommended? Yes!


Note: This review was written in 2016.

Let’s discuss!

  • Have you read Not If I See You First? What were your thoughts?
  • Do you like ‘unlikeable’ protagonists? What do you think about them?
  • Have you read a book about a blind character before? If so, do you have any recommendations?
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14 thoughts on “Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom – Powerfully explores the duality of blindness and perception

  1. Huh, interesting! I’ve read one of Lindstrom’s other books – A Tragic Kind of Wonderful. It feels like the main characters are quite similar in that they begin quite guarded and caustic, but end up opening themselves up to other people. The MC in Tragic Kind of Wonderful is bipolar, and it has really interesting representation, if you’re interested. It’s a fascinating book. (Though the sexuality rep was problematic imho.)

    • Hi Wendy!
      Oooh yes, that really sounds like Parker, the main character of Not If I See You First! I haven’t heard much about A Tragic Kind of Wonderful – but thank you very much for the heads up regarding the problematic rep. I’ve seen this available in the library, so maybe I’ll read up some reviews for it and see how I go. Thank you!!

  2. I’m not a huge fan of YA contemporary, but always interested in reading diversely, especially if it comes to disabilities (since I don’t think it is that well represented in ya). Considering that, I might just pick up this book, also it does sound like a good read. Great review!

  3. Beautiful review, as always <3 I'm happy to hear you enjoyed this book so much, I'm really curious to read it. I had heard of it a little while ago, then…well I completely forgot about it, but you know how it is, so many books ahah. I'm so glad you put this on my radar again, thank you! <3 I'm so curious to hear this main character's voice, even if she is a bit unlikeable at first…I'm hoping I'll get through this part and end up loving it all as much as you did :)

    • Hi Marie!
      Thank you so much – and you are most welcome! I think this is a great book, particularly one that really grows on you over time.
      I hope you enjoy it! You’ll see why she’s so unlikeable if you get around to reading it – personally, I think she is justified but would love to hear your thoughts too!

  4. I had really similar thoughts on this one. I’m a huge fan of unlikeable characters to begin with – to me, they’re realistic – but Parker just won me over. I enjoyed that, like you said, this was about a girl who’s blind rather than being about blindness. Mostly, I loved the payoff of reading this. You get to the end and Parker has grown and shifted right in front of you. It’s brilliant, one of the best character-driven novels I’ve read this year. I’m glad it’s getting good reviews from other people, considering we need more books about disabilities!

    • Hello Christine!
      I’m so glad that you liked this book and Parker too – and I could not agree more with why you love unlikeable characters! I think there’s this big push for characters to be likable in order for the book to be worthwhile, but I think that diminishes the variety of unique experiences.
      I agree! I’ve been told that Disability in Kidlit reviews many books specifically with disabled characters, so that’s going to be my next first place to start!

  5. This is already on my library TBR list, so I’m glad to hear it’s so good. Disability in Kidlit has a bunch of reviews on books with blind protagonists, so that might be a good place to start.

    I have the book As Brave as You by Jason Reynolds, about two African-American boys spending the summer with their blind grandfather, but haven’t read it yet, so I can’t tell you if it’s any good.

    • Hello there!
      Oh, thank you for pointing me in that direction! I’d love to read more books about blind characters, particularly any ownvoices ones.
      That sounds wonderful! Please let me know your thoughts if you get around to reading it? I’d be curious to know your thoughts!

  6. Ohh this sounds really good! I had seen this around, but now I definitely want to read this :) I love books that make you fall more and more in love with them the more you think about them. Great review like always!

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