As is more and more frequently the case, I learned about this book via Twitter. Author Emlyn Chand (@emlynchand) offered Farsighted as a freed download on the 9th. I had seen it mentioned a few times on Twitter in glowing terms (in fact, its Amazon product page lists quite a litany of awards: Overall Winner of the Dragonfly eBook Awards, 2011; Best Young Adult Fiction, Dragonfly eBook Awards, 2011; Best Debut Author, Dragonfly eBook Awards, 2011; Winner of the Alternative Booker Award, 2011; Winner of the WritersType First Chapter Competition, September 2011), so I thought I’d give it a shot–despite my recent efforts to offset the YA jag I’ve been on.
I finally picked it up yesterday, and despite a couple phone calls trying to interrupt my reading train of thought (sorry to the people who were trying to talk to me… I really wasn’t paying attention to you as I snuck in a few more words of the book between sentences… You should know me better now than to expect me to pause that long…), finished it in one sitting.
This book grabbed me and held on to me for the way it dealt with “talents”. Especially those that further marginalize you from the mainstream. Alex is born blind and has to deal with overprotective parents and a town full of kids who seem all too willing to follow the distasteful lead the town bully lays out for them to follow. The book begins with Alex not looking forward to the beginning of his sophomore year, and the unexpected arrival of a new burden.
From the description:
Unfortunately, Alex is in store for another new arrival–an unexpected and often embarrassing ability to “see” the future. Try as he may, Alex is unable to ignore his visions, especially when they suggest Simmi is in mortal danger. With the help of the mysterious psychic next door and friends who come bearing gifts of their own, Alex embarks on his journey to change the future.
Each development follows logically on the heels of the last, and the reader gets the unusual treat of building a world entirely based on the sounds and smells that surround the boy. In fact, this growing awareness of cultures opposed to the stiflingly small-town atmosphere that he’s grown up in is subtly foreshadowed early on as he starts reading a school assignment:
“During the daytime, I work my way through The Odyssey. I’ve gotten to the part where Odysseus meets the princess and the goddess Athena makes him look especially good so the hot, young princess will like him. I wish I had a goddess doing things like that for me! Odysseus has all the luck–everywhere he goes, princesses and goddesses are throwing themselves at him.”
The author also throws in chapter headers describing Norse runes as another way of underlining one of the central themes of the book (and providing some handy crib notes for where the chapter will take you–a whole new take on foreshadowing for me): The tension between belief and non-belief and the power of our ability to ignore the facts of our experience in favor of our personal interpretation of those. As the story unfolds and Alex continues to try to frame his visions in simplistic superhero versus super-villain terms, one of his mentors is given the chance to offer a profound insight to both him and readers generally:
“You are not good in the purest sense of the word. Nor does such a concept exist. You are both good and bad. Time will tell which of the two you favor.”
So while this book was true to the uncomfortable transition early High School experiences offer kids, it also dealt with universal themes–the hallmark of any truly good story. I’m happy to recommend this (even at its full price!) to anyone interested in a story about finding your own way in trying circumstances. The analogy between psi and magic talents in Rowlings’ books is pretty obvious, so I would say anyone who could appreciate those will also appreciate this–which turns out to be the beginning of a series itself. I’m really looking forward to seeing how it develops, myself.