“One, two, three, four. I started counting the steps as soon as my feet left the drive. At first, walking so quickly I could barely keep count, but counting nonetheless. Pouring all of my consciousness into keeping count, blocking any other thought out. Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen. Opening one finger at a time when I got to the two-syllable numbers to make sure I didn’t lose track of how many steps I had taken.”
Jo is so used to keeping her head down and getting on with life that she doesn’t always see things clearly. Between looking after her mum and avoiding the mean kids at school she tries to keep herself to herself and doesn’t have time to think about what she wants. She has to be the strong one. When avoiding the kids at school proves difficult Jo decides to take on a voluntary aide position, helping Chris with his dinner and getting to classes. She wants to make Chris’ life better and soon finds herself going to dramatic lengths to do so, but soon she realises that friendship is a two-way street and its not just Chris who may need a little help.
Anyone who wants more diversity in YA lit needs to read this. Not only does it handle mental health in a true to life way, it also features a main character with severe disabilities and does so brilliantly.
The story is definitely not a light hearted one. Jo is not in a good place with her mothers illness dominating her life. Right at the start she tries to have a normal teenage existence and it spirals her mother out of control. Its not a nice place for any child to be but its worse when that child is the only one there. The issues with her mother run throughout the book with her very much taking on the role of the sensible carer and having to look at her mother instead of the other way round. The fact that all the kids know what her mother is like causes problems too with many of them bullying Jo for it and leaving Jo with no one to talk to. This is where Chris comes in and the story really gets going.
I loved Chris and I understood why Jo wanted to help him. She thought that she was doing what was best for him but this book really emphasises the idea that you seriously have to listen to what other people want to tell you, and not assume things about others. Jo was too quiet and hid her own feelings so didn’t open up to anyone unless she thought i was helping them by doing so. Thats how the relationship between her and Chris forms and its a lovely one.
A lot of the issues in this book are very, very serious ones. It deals with mental health, physical disabilities and the danger of assuming you are aware of what is best for others when honestly you can’t unless you are them. It is an ‘issues’ book but the beautiful writing and the characters within it are much more than their issues. I loved the way Chris’ personality shone through because Jo let it and I loved Sarah as a character because she reacted in ways I would hope I could. Being a teenage is hard and it does suck, but it sucks more when things out of your control shape the person other people believe you are.
Finding A Voice was a beautiful book which tackled major issues with characters I grew to love. It was scary and it was sad but there were funny bits and amazing friendships formed so all round it was brilliant. I really enjoyed learning about Jo and her home life and wanted the best for her as soon as I got to know her. She may not be the most relatable main character for many teens but I think they will enjoy reading her story nonetheless.
Finding a Voice: Friendship is a Two-Way Street will be published on August 11th by O’Brien Press. My copy was sent to me from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
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