Jay is a foster kid and dyslexic, which leaves him at odds with his foster parents’ extended families and feeling more alone than ever at the holidays. He’s not good with crowds and tends to shy away from people, which makes summer school not much better than his home life.
While avoiding his problems, he meets popular transfer student Seiji, who frequently feels alone even in the midst of an adoring crowd. The two grow close over the summer, but come the school year, Jay starts to think their friendship was really just a momentary distraction to Seiji…
First off it’s a VERY short book, the kind you could finish while waiting in the doctor’s office – though that probably says more about how long they make you wait than the length of the book. Still it’s an incredibly quick read so there really isn’t a good reason to not give it a shot.
Right off something about the pace feel frantic, it’s first person POV so you’re getting the story from the main character (Jay) who we’ve been told up front has dyslexia. It’s quite possible the author wrote the pace and narration feeling like this in order to capture something of the character’s personality and put you in that frame of mind to better understand their world. It kind of reminded me of my husband who has ADD, that fast, all over the place way he has a tendency of talking when he can’t focus. I’m NOT saying ADD and Dyslexia are the same thing, I’m simply remarking on how it feels to me through my personal experience.
Jay comes off like a sweet kid who has had a hard life, he’s been in the foster system and his dyslexia overlooked until he hit high school. Instead of realizing there was more to him he was simply pushed around the system and treated as if he was unintelligent until his current foster mom recognized his challenge for what it truly was and not stupidity or laziness. This has affected his confidence and despite the help he has gotten with his learning challenges his home life is still less than adequate causing him to shuffle around to kill time so he doesn’t upset the delicate balance where he lives.
His new friend Sei, the Japanese transfer student, has his own issues that have molded him into a caring person. He never knew his father as a young child, his mother died so he was left in the care of relatives until his father was found and moved him to America where he now lives with him, a step-mother and half siblings. He feels homesick and unsure of his place much like Jay.
You are treated to a lot of details that almost feel overwhelming for someone who doesn’t multi-task on this level. As another character is introduced, a Japanese transfer student we’re told, his dialogue flows very smoothly and conversationally while Jay’s continued at this stilted off pace so I’m really thinking the way the narration is written is to encapsulate Jay’s personality. As there is very little dialogue between characters, or at least it feels that way due to all the narration, I felt a bit overcome at times trying to keep all the facts and details straight simply because the narration is so energizer bunny like.
A fun aspect of the book is all the Japanese culture you get inundated with like learning about Obon the custom to honor ancestors, some tidbits on Manga, and a rundown on the Japanese characters which are obviously different than the written English alphabet. Although reading about all the food was making me hungry!
The romance between Jay and Sei is extremely subtle and nearly 90% of the book is over before anything happens that makes you truly realize there is something romantic between them; though Jay lets on his feelings a little earlier.
Jay’s dyslexia is used in a pretty neat way when he is able to help people thanks to his artistic side. As a parent of daughters on the spectrum I loved seeing a character who has a challenge shown they are more than that and that they have something great to offer the world. Too often those who aren’t neurotypical are pushed off to the side as if they are only their challenge and they can’t contribute when the truth is far richer.
Thank you to Netgalley and Less Than Three Press for allowing me to review this!
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