There is really no more important book in the series than that first one and it can apply an extra burden on a writer’s narrative as they not only try to give you a solid story, but excite you enough to want to continue the adventures of the main characters, while giving you a feeling of closure and not closure at the end. Whew… This is the task Emlyn Chand gave herself in her first young adult novel, Farsighted (Found on amazon.com here), a possible five-book series.
There is a lot going for Farsighted.
For one, there is a very unique narrator, one that took me quite by surprise with a “Doh, why have I not seen, or thought, of this before!?” Frankly, the idea is, in my opinion, almost revolutionary for storytelling.
See (not said ironically), the story is told by a blind young man.
While most storytellers and narrators have the entire palette of descriptions for, let’s say, another character or location, this is a new limitation and right from the start it made me intrigued about the character and where he would go. It defined him as a voice and character immediately, introducing a back story and future that you want to explore.
I especially became fascinated about this narrative direction in storytelling when the narrator begins to have psychic visions; and as a reader you can’t help but feel like you are having them too, since it is so hard to tell what is real and fake with one less sense available. For that fact alone, I would recommend this book to young adults, especially those that need to learn a little bit more empathy.
Also, what’s additionally intriguing to me about the character of Alex is not just the blindness but how he tells the story and talks about himself in a way that seems to contradict with how the other characters see him. If you were to believe Alex he is nothing but a bubbling cauldron of teenage angst, with a chip on his shoulder at everything from friends (which he has and doesn’t), bullies, and his parents (from his dad he doesn’t like to his mom that he seems to look down upon). Yet, the Alex everyone else sees in him is different. They see a friend, someone to laugh with, a kind heart, and a friend. The dichotomy in this character is fascinating to watch (again, not said ironically).
Alex is a psychic. He has visions of a possible future that haunts him nightly and daily. Many of those visions are around Simmi, a friend (but one he would like to be more than friends with) and her possible demise under another teenage psychic named Dax. Farsighted is the start of Alex’s hero’s journey, his decision on who he wants to be and what he wants to do are ideas that he struggles with over the course of the book; like a teenager deciding what they want to do when they grow up… Except on a larger telekinetic stage, of course.
Unfortunately, while Alex is a strong narrator, sometimes the other characters around him don’t feel as distinctive, which can be a little surprising since there is such a small cast of characters around the tale. He has two friends Simmi and Sharpi. Of the two, I was most drawn to Sharpi who talks to her dead father and thinks he is still alive (neat idea, right?). It is almost frustrating that Alex is more interested in Simmi who seems boring in comparison; yes, Chand’s writing turned me into a teenage matchmaker.
While Farsighted is a tale about young psychics, Chand gives the readers little magic or excitement about being “gifted” or different. If anything it is an annoying burden for the characters, a frustration; in many ways, the opposite to the thrill Harry Potter felt upon learning that he was a wizard. And since we really don’t see the training or the pleasures of learning new abilities (which happen at Miss Teak’s business… get it?), sometimes the psychic powers can get lost in the struggles of the teenagers and their teenage lives. While you and I would be giggling our way through our new powers, trying them out everywhere we can, Alex and his friends watch Napoleon Dynamite and have pizza parties. A definitely different way of looking at the “gifted” people among us, and possibly more honest.
If there is one major complaint I can give about the book it is that sometimes it feels like the writer is pulling her punches, saving her best ideas for later books in the series. This was especially evident to me during the last 30 pages when Dax steps out more from “visions” to communicate with Alex; a chilling moment, I would have loved to have seen earlier. But this is Alex’s tale, and in his mind, Dax takes second to his own feeling around Simmi and his parents’ struggling relationship.
After finishing the book, I felt haunted by it. Mainly because I wondered what Alex didn’t see or read around him. What were people’s facial expressions like? What did his miss? His blindness almost seemed to open more questions for me around the truth of the tale I just read… Yes, I will be reading the next book in the series. I am hooked.