Author: Reneé Carter
Available in eBook?: Yes
Genre: Contemporary YA Romance
Final Verdict: Buy (with reservations)
My Take: His Eyes is a sweet, simple YA book marred by genre tropes, leaps of faith, and a lack of development.
His Eyes is the story of Amy, a young music lover who aspires to someday write for Rolling Stone. On the cusp of graduation and from a moderate-income family, she’s torn between going the practical route–attending Illinois University–next fall, or going to her dream school, Evanston–a pricey alternative with an excellent journalism program. To hopefully help pay her way, Amy responds to an ad for a babysitter that will carry her through the summer and hopefully allow her to pay her room if she chooses the more expensive school.
Of course, Amy quickly learns that the job isn’t what she expected–rather than sitting for the two younger children, Chris and Marly, Amy is being hired to “sit” the eighteen-year-old Tristan, recently blinded in a riding accident, and who has refused to adapt to his new life.
Tristan, obviously, is not handling things well: when Amy first “meets” him, he’s locked himself in a large closet (where we later learn his mother has moved all the stuff from his “old” life out of his room). Ultimately, through the course of the story, Amy is able to get Tristan to come out of his shell and become more accepting of his new life, and a romance buds between them. However, everything is interrupted when Tristan’s “girlfriend” Lexus arrives on the scene (or “The Creature,” as Amy calls her). Lexus is everything Amy is not, even if it is a bit exaggerated.
The story is sweet, but flawed. For one thing, it really, really set me off that Tristan isn’t able to smell the difference between coke and root beer, yet he can smell Amy’s shampoo from feet away to know that she’s in the room before she otherwise makes her presence known. Personally, I can’t stand root beer, and its smell is pretty unique. It really made me question the author and pulled me out of the story at this point, although she did redeem herself a bit later, although there were some details in the resolution that still felt forced. It’s hard to talk about them without giving anything away, but like the soda incident, the credibility was stretched pretty thin.
Overall, the book felt underdeveloped. For example, the entire book takes place primarily over the course of a few weeks, when it’s obvious that Amy was intended to assist Tristan the entire summer. I think the book would have been far stronger if we saw their relationship develop over the three months of summer rather than just a few weeks. I was really disappointed that we didn’t get to see Amy helping Tristan to change–not just practically in terms of learning to adapt, get back on his horse, etc., but also emotionally–and we also didn’t see Amy change, either. I know that the narrator of a book doesn’t have to be dynamic, but I’m from the school that if you’re telling the story, you should change–you should have your own character arch and emotional journey. Amy is pretty much the same person she was at the beginning of the story as she is at the end. Tristan does change, kind of, although I never really got a sense of him still being that old person to sense his change.
For example, the whole side story of Amy’s family is never really developed and almost seems unnecessary. Amy has a much older brother who left home at 18 and never looked back. One week a year, presumably on the anniversary of his leaving, Amy’s mother lays out special dinners each night and is convinced that’ll be the year he comes home. Unbeknownst to either of her parents, Amy has kept in contact with her brother via snail mail, however. Still, this entire plot thread goes no where and seems to do nothing other than be a plot point.
(Minor Spoiler: her brother submits a scholarship application/nomination for her. That’s his whole purpose, it seems, for even being in the story. Tristan could easily have done so, and it would have helped illustrate his character change more effectively. I think if Amy had been dynamic, her brother may have become a more essential figure in the story.)
Perhaps I’m being overly critical; this is a young adult novel after all, but I still felt like the writer had an interesting, sweet story that didn’t quite live up to its potential and settled down into comfortable tropes or swept over logic and reason at times in order to get to the required goal.
As far as the way Tristan’s disability is handled, obviously, this is a recent-injury book, and Tristan has refused to adapt to his life, but except for a few niggles (like the soda incident mentioned above), I thought his blindness was handled well. I particularly liked a scene late in the book in which Tristan saves someone from drowning, with Amy helping to guide him to the victim. The book does end with Tristan embracing his blindness and realizing that he can still do all the things he wanted to do before.
“I want to see you.”
“What?” I gasped, my heart rate skyrocketing.
“I want to know you–what you look like,” he said quietly and held out his hand.
I breathed, “Oh,” and guided his hand to my face. His fingertips rested gently against the skin of my forehead and slowly brushed the line of my hair. I couldn’t suppress the shiver that ran down my spine. I closed my eyes and felt his fingers feeling their way downwards, tracing the arches of my eyebrows. Softly, they moved over my nose to the bones of my cheeks.
And despite all my complaints: the cliches, they hyperbolic antagonist, the underdeveloped narrator–the romance does manage to work decently and is sweet. You come to like Tristan and want the two of them to be together, even if you don’t fully understand who they are.
If you can enjoy a book while happily sticking your fingers in your ears and humming to avoid thinking too much about some of the things that don’t quite add up, His Eyes is a cute story, and it does end up with the message that blindness doesn’t have to stop you from achieving your goals or even “being a hero.”Share: