The disability rep I needed as a teen.
I was so excited for Unbroken: 13 stories starring disabled teens. I’ll be honest it was partly for the amazingly pretty cover art. (Also the title is perfect)
Anyway I pre-ordered this as soon as I could and was excited for it arriving, then it sat on my tbr pile for months, while life took over and I got distracted by other books.
The trouble I’m having, having been recently diagnosed with a chronic illness, is really being in the right headspace for reading reps and descriptions of people suffering with chronic illnesses/diseases. I get to a stage where I want my reading to be pure escapism and this means reading anything but characters facing similar struggles as I am with my health.
But, eventually, I decided to give it a go – I could always stop and pick it up later, right?
I don’t read many anthologies, and I know they are quite hard to review. Do I give an overall rating? Or a rating based on each individual story?
I will admit that at least part of my rating comes from the fact that there are so few physically disabled YA reps out there (if you have suggestions, please go ahead) especially in sci-fi or fantasy settings – I’ve yet to come across a YA dystopia which successfully deals with proper disability rep. So I want, in part, this book to do well simply because it needs to exist. YA audiences need to see themselves in books – they need to be encouraged that life is possible, even with the odds stacked against you. And not every reader is able-bodied or neurotypical or “normal” by whatever cultural standard is the predominant factor in society. I wish I had a book like this when I was a teenager, I wish I had books like this when I was even younger – when we would play playground games that more often than not would devolve into me chasing my “friends” despite (or maybe because) my physical disability. But I digress, the important thing now is, what I thought of the stories themselves.
I didn’t love all of them, I’ll admit it, I think a couple I didn’t really “get”. Perhaps not living with that particular condition or disability meant that the subtleties of those portrayals were lost on me. Since you can’t buy just the stories you adore in an anthology I don’t really see how rating each story individually will help but I will mention a couple that I really loved.
Britt and The Bike God by Kody Keplinger
This was a wonderful bit of romantic fluff for me. I could empathise with the struggles and emotions felt by Britt and felt genuinely happy (ok slightly goofy) with the ending. It was really nice to see a representation where all the internalised guilt and hatred was expressed but then dealt with in a happy way – sometimes we just need that one person to remind us of our good things and happiness.
Per Aspera Ad Astra by Katherine Locke
I loved this story. It really made me feel like the author really understood how it feels to live with anxiety – that it’s not just worrying a bit. I really enjoyed the fact that Lizzie anxiety wasn’t built up at the start then just simply forgotten during the main drama of the action. She manages to function, to do what she needs to do in order to save the day but the anxiety is still with her – she’s not cured just because she made it past her front door. I wish I could read a full book about Lizzie to be honest, as this representation felt really true and powerful, and Lizzie as a protagonist felt compelling.
The Day The Dragon Came by Marieke Nijkamp
This story was just utter perfection. I fell in love with Alix by the end of the first page – the depiction of her dealing with chronic pain was so well crafted and captivating, her relationship with Delfin was so in-depth even in just 25 pages. Again this is a story I would love more of, it feels like there is so much more to tell about Alix and Delfin. (On a side note I now desperately want a dragon handle for my cane)
Honorary mentions also go to A Play in Many Parts (Fox Benwell) Ballad of Weary Daughters (Kristine Wyllys) and A Curse, A Kindness (Corinne Duyvis)
This as whole is such a powerful, accomplished and above all, important book. While I’ll still steal away into escapism with my reading, this anthology has shown me that I can read disability reps, even when I’m feeling down about my own life – and that sometimes they can even make me feel better.