A disabled 17-year-old girl must confront her feelings toward her mother while also grappling with all the challenges of being a teenager in Minaki’s (Zoe’s Extraordinary Holiday Adventures, 2007) YA novel.
Naomi was born with cerebral palsy, and although multiple therapies have improved her motor functions, she requires a wheelchair or a walker to get through her day. Her twin sister, Mary, died shortly after their birth, and her mother was left emotionally paralyzed by grief. One day, Naomi’s mom took her older sister, Jo, and walked out, leaving Naomi with her father and younger brother. Despite this trauma, Naomi, now a teenager, succeeds in school, spending time horseback riding and developing close relationships with Lynne, a girl overcoming a learning disability; and Eva, a young woman battling alcoholism. When Naomi’s mother and sister suddenly reappear, she expects a terse dinner with them and nothing more. Then, without warning, Jo announces that she plans to move back in with Naomi and her father. Naomi does her best to navigate the new, tense family dynamic; she also finds herself beginning a romantic relationship with a young man named Matt, although she’s not sure that he fully accepts her disability. Complicating things further is Naomi’s friendship with Curtis, a young man who wants to escape an abusive legacy. Also, her mother is harboring a potentially shattering secret. Canadian author Minaki uses her educational background—she holds a master’s in education, specializing in disability studies—to paint an honest, sometimes-revelatory view of life with disability. Naomi spends much of the novel reflecting on her relationship to her cerebral palsy in the first person, relating it to such topics as love, independence, and her Christian faith. Minaki also allows other characters, including Naomi’s loved ones, to narrate brief segments with similarly heartfelt contemplation. The slow pacing and well-developed cast conjure up a fictional world that’s sure to engage readers.
A powerfully emotional exploration of disability and adolescence.