At the beginning of the year, I decided I was going to read 75 books after seeing the Reading Challenge feature on goodreads. (We should be friends on there.)

Yeah, 75 books was a bit ambitious. It’s December 23 and I’ve read 30 (technically 32) books. And probably several half books which count for nothing.

Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose. As opposed to Go Ask Alice, allegedly this is an actually-legit diary of a teenage girl and her experiences with cystic fibrosis, drugs, and alcohol. 

Rumours – Lingering Echoes Series 0.5 | Erica Kiefer. A quick read for me, there were a lot of questions that didn’t get answered until the end (a good thing, as they got answered) about the story of a teenager dealing with her feelings of responsibility in the death of her young cousin. I got this one for free or cheap as found on BookBub.

The Reason | Lacey Sturm. I actually read this one twice (at least) this year. I’ve always wondered more about Lacey Sturm’s testimony, and her life prior to meeting Jesus, Lacey is a talented writer, and I really enjoyed this book.

will grayson will grayson | John Green and David Levithan. Polar-opposite Will Graysons (two of them, yes) meet one day in Chicago—and as much as they try to avoid one another, their worlds intertwine. I’d been waiting to read this forever, and it was another that sucked me in and I consumed in two days.

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Share Their Stories. A very interesting book, several teens in various stages of transition share their stories about who they are.

My Brief History | Stephen Hawking. I honestly thought this would be more interesting than it was—I skipped a lot of pages because, for whatever reason, I didn’t think there would be as much very complicated physics and stuff in this book as there was.

Fifty Shades of Grey | E. L. James. Don’t worry, I found a PDF online. Classified on goodreads as “books that hype made me read”, I spent the entirety of the time reading this book alternately messaging passages to my friend Kyra and trying not to a) throw up (mostly from the bad writing, but occasionally the content) and b) my iPad across the room.

Nothing Special – Stupid Fast #2 | Geoff Herbach. A fantastic teen book with a guy protagonist, and a realistic one at that. Still recovering from their dad’s suicide years ago, football star Felton’s brother goes missing prompting him to miss football camp in exchange for an impromptu cross-country drive to find his brother. I tore through this one on a mini-road trip.

Stupid Fast | Geoff Herbach. Reading these books out of order, I promptly dove into Stupid Fast after reading Nothing Special. I was confused a lot in Stupid Fast, and this cleared up a lot of stuff about Andrew and Felton, and their friends, and who the heck Felton was writing all the letters to in Stupid Fast (his girlfriend. Go figure.)

The Road to Becoming | Jenny Simmons. Easily my favourite book this year—I’ve read it multiple times already since receiving the Kickstarter edition, and Jenny’s stories and reflections on her life following the end of Addison Road, before, and during her time with the band, and her family. “A complete meltdown in the spaghetti aisle”, outrage at the Iowa Bureau of Transportation, and life on the road—what’s not to love? Also I laughed out loud on a bus a few times.

Breaking Free | sm koz. Thinking her best friend’s death in a car accident was her fault, Kelsie struggles with cutting, and is recommended to attend Wilderness Therapy. With enough going on for Kelsie, even if not healing—love, angst, maybe true friendship, adventure—and unexpected tragedy—to keep me engaged, I tore through this one in a day or two as well. It was a relatively easy read, but still worthwhile.

Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen | Arin Andrews. Another interesting read about Arin’s transition process, Some Assembly Required gave me a lot more insight into one person’s perspective on discovering their true gender identity and how he—and his family and friends—dealt with “assembling” his true self.

This Star Won’t Go Out | Esther Earl. Of Nerdfighteria fame, Esther’s diary of life as a teenager with cancer holds its own as a book. Though a bit confusing at times (it’s a journal with other work mixed in, after all), I mostly enjoyed TSWGO and learning more about Esther.

Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero | Michael Hingson. Years and years ago I saw the “Inside 9/11” documentary, and since then I’ve had this odd interest in understanding more about that day in 2001. Having friends with guide dogs, Michael’s story captivated me as he and Roselle, his Guide Dog started a normal day and unexpectedly found themselves with hundreds of others descending the thousands of stairs in second tower of the World Trade Centre. Michael describes that day with Roselle in vivid detail and how it impacted his life, as well as Roselle’s from that day forward. [I couldn’t put this one down, either.]

The Blue Haired Boy: Faking Normal 0.5 | Courtney C. Stevens. Book might have been better if I’d read “Faking Normal 1” first, but this is what happens when I find books for free on BookBub. Anyways, teenagers run away from their lives, meet on a bus, and dye their hair blue with Kool-Aid in the bus bathroom. The book wasn’t memorable enough for me to rate, but I mean, it was following Thunder Dog, so, there’s that.

Raising My Rainbow: Adventures in Raising a Fabulous, Gender-Creative Son | Lori Duron. If you can escape from the cute little blue denim Converse-like shoes with pink laces on the front cover, I’m not sure we can be friends ;). Lori writes her story of knowing from a very young age that her son did not necessarily identify within binaric gender. Their story is one of exploration, and is very honest in explaining how Lori and her husband work through the criticism from those around them, while embracing their son for who he is.

Fallout | Nikki Tate. Apparently I read books about people who have close people to them who die? This book I think contained a lot of poetry which I did not enjoy, and also did not help the book make sense to me.

Girl, Interrupted | Susanna Kaysen. I didn’t really realize that this was a move, but I knew the title sounded familiar. Typical for my knowledge of pop/film culture. Anyways, Kaysen vividly documents her time in a psychiatric hospital while being treated for borderline personality disorder, from being sent from her physician’s office to the hospital, to her discharge. It was a fast read, and I should probably re-read it because I’m fuzzy on details. Obviously.

Blind | Rachel DeWoskin. Emma loses her sight in a fireworks accident, and then learns how to navigate her life as one usually does as a teenager with an acquired disability (she also has a non-guide dog that helps her). Now, my sarcasm aside, the book deals with the “apparent” suicide of a classmate, and the students having secret meetings in some sort of cave to deal with their grief/questions. Throughout the book, Emma grieves her loss of sight which is made obvious to her in seeing her classmates’ reactions to their peer’s death. I’m not doing the book justice, but it was pretty decent and shows Emma’s growing independence as she adapts to life without sight, and in the end fairly accurately depicts at least what I know of navigating life with a vision impairment.

Ghost Boy – Martin Pistorius. Martin develops a condition that essentially traps him inside his own mind for ten years, requiring him to be cared for full-time. While a bit dry at times, this book is a very interesting account not only of Martin’s experience, but also, the effects of what people say when they think you can’t hear them…

Treacherous Love | Lurlene McDaniel. Student falls in love with his teacher, she has mutual feelings, and things go basically as anticipated as they face the consequences of her actions.

El Deafo | Cece Bell. A graphic novel/comic for pre-teens, El Deafo is a pretty adorable look at a rabbit with hearing loss, and how she navigates her world… with some superpowers—like her imagination—too. 

Damaged | Amy Reed. Okay, sound familiar? Kinsey’s best friend dies in a car crash, Kinsey was driving. Kinsey runs off with a guy across the country, and the guy is equally messed-up from his own issues. Issues ensue and they “discover they can’t outrun pain”. It was interesting, but nothing special.

Don’t Call Me Sugarbaby | Dorothy Joan Harris. I found this book in my school library in grade 8, and haven’t been able to track it down since. I finally caved and ordered it from Amazon. Allison is a 7th grader and is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Set in the 80s, all I thought of re-reading this with a lot more diabetes knowledge than before, is how much T1D management and technology has changed since this book came out.

What I Want | L.N. Cronk. I read this, rated it 4 stars, and don’t remember a damn thing about it. Apparently nobody else does either because nobody on Goodreads has actually written a review.

Grace, Under Pressure: A girl with Asperger’s and her marathon mom | Sophie Walker. After years of struggling in many ways and excelling in others, Grace is diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome around the 4th grade. Her mom takes up running (and eventually marathons) to cope with being the single-mom to a girl who’s sweet and loving but gets in trouble and feels very different from her peers, even before her diagnosis. With a later diagnosis, Grace and Sophie struggle to navigate the educational system to provide Grace the support she needs—an issue I can totally identify with.

ADHD Wellness Program | Cheryl Healy. Some excerpts from my Goodreads review: “Bullshit. I wish I could give this no stars. It’s like reading a list that primarily consists of unscientific ‘data’. Don’t waste your time if you’re really dealing with ADHD and/or trying to become more wholly balanced while keeping science, including psychology, as your focus. […] one should always become wary when there are no citations within a nonfiction work. […] every part of me that has struggled […] screams against the claims that ADHD is a result of things I am doing wrong, and that ADHD is not real: ADHD IS REAL.” 

The end. Bullshit. Thank God it was free.

Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison | Piper Kerman. I expected to not like this after being so engrossed in the Netflix series, but it was super captivating and a really well written. Read it.

Beautiful Affliction | Lene Fogelberg. Lene is sick and doesn’t know why. She has a lot of unexplained symptoms, and after moving to the US from Sweden, she is finally diagnosed with a congenital heart defect that has been gradually stealing away her life for years. As many doctors work together to unravel the mystery and fix Lene’s heart, Lene must cope with the fact that she may not survive surgery, and how to deal with including her husband and young daughters—that she should never have survived the birth of—in the process. (Spoiler-non-spoiler: She wrote the book, thus, she lived.)

Wide Awake and Dreaming | Julie Flygare. Fellow MedicineX ePatient from 2015, Julie’s book about life with narcolepsy was gripping, informative, and really helped me to better understand narcolepsy and cataplexy. Highly recommend it for your next read. I plowed through it in less than a day (as I’ve heard many others have), a testament to how well-written and interesting Julie’s story is.

The bonus two—out of order: I don’t remember when I read these.

Sometimes, you just need an easy thing to read. It’s not cheating to read kids books, right? I mean, they’re kids chapter books.

Junie B. First Grader: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells (P.S. So Does May.) | Barbara Park. Look, I am telling you, if you need to read and laugh a little and not think, go pick up some Junie B. I got them through my library’s eBook selection on Overdrive.

Junie B. First Grader: Dumb Bunny. All the kids get to do an easter egg hunt, but… Junie B. has to be the Easter bunny at her friend Lucille’s Easter party which is arguably less fun, probably, then finding eggs. Following many other trials, obviously this is the catastrophe of the week in Junie B.’s first-grade life. (I mean, that kid has had it in for her since Stupid Smelly Bus, aka book one, when she got locked in the school on her first day of kindergarten. [Seriously, read these to kids. Or by yourself. They’re fun and don’t require brain power.]

Books I Didn’t Finish:

Goodreads calls these “Currently Reading” even if I am not reading them very currently.

  • Flight to Heaven | Dale Black. Guy is the lone survivor of a plane crash, dies and is resuscitated. Legitimately, I got bored and quit reading at the “then I went to heaven” part. (It was $4 at Safeway.)
  • Boost: Create Good Habits Using Psychology and Technology | Max Ogles. Sort of interesting but nothing much I don’t already know/do. Why it’s only 40% done.
  • You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?! A Self-Help Book for Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder | Kate Kelly and Peggy Ramundo. What do you mean someone with ADHD didn’t finish a book about ADHD?! Wow. I tried. A bunch. TL;DR.
  • The Art of Asking; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help | Amanda Palmer. This probably got abandoned for the same reason The Happiness Project did.
  • We Need To Talk About Kevin | Lionel Shriver. I know I started this book but my goodreads progress is 0%.
  • Memoirs of an Addicted Brain: A Neuroscientist Examines his Former Life on Drugs | Marc Lewis. 12% done. I probably got bored?
  • The Psychopath Whisperer: The Science of Those Without Conscience | Kent A. Kiehl. This one was super interesting, except I think I ran out of time to read it before my time with the library eBook was done.
  • The Art of Non-Conformity. I’m sure this has been here for over a year.
  • I’m Only Being Honest | Jeremy Kyle. For a guy who’s an interesting host of a daytime TV drama where he tries to solve people’s problems in the UK (ie. lie detectors, paternity tests, other argument moderation), his book is pretty dry.
  • Growing Up Muslim: Understanding the Beliefs and Practices of Islam | Sumbul Ali-Karamali. Great, great book, but I started it on the way home from Minneapolis and then stopped reading.
…Maybe next year I’ll aim to read 40 books, not 75… Oh well, at least I read something, right?

Bullshit. I wish I could give this no stars. It’s like reading a list that primarily consists of unscientific “data”. Don’t waste your time if you’re really dealing with ADHD and/or are trying to become more wholly balanced while keeping science, including psychology, as your focus!

EDIT: the list only takes up the first 10 pages, but one should always become wary when there are no citations within a nonfiction work. As a person living with ADHD, every part of me that has struggled when those around me found tasks easy, screams against the claims that ADHD is a result of things I am doing wrong and that ADHD is not real: ADHD IS REAL

A season.

Lower portion of tree with lake behind it

Another, to be well. To become well. To realize anew that this is not a passive act–I can exist, or I can live well and be fulfilled. And these fulfilled seasons are the ones I remember. The ones where I know myself and where I am headed and maybe even feel connected to the One who is coauthoring this story with me–the same God that Jenny Simmons refers to, in her book The Road to Becoming, as the Storyteller.  I am here to live a story, not a passivity.

I wasn’t looking
I wasn’t ready
kicking and screaming
tired of believing by myself
I never would have done it on my own.
oh but You,
You were never gonna let me go
You took me

straight to the Healer
You were my believer
when I couldn’t even see it for myself
and now I’m whole, I can feel it
now I can see it when I couldn’t even say it for myself
You said “it’s time to be well”

no man’s an island
we need each other
no use in hiding
no pain in lying to myself
cause I don’t have to do this on my own
with You, I don’t have to walk this road alone

You tore a hole in the roof and You laid me down
just to make me well, just to make me well
You tore a hole in the roof and You laid me down
…and He made me well, and He made me well.

–time to be well, jenny simmons 

Yes, I’ve lost time by circumstances out of my control. Yes, I’ve (even worse) neglected time. But these are chapters in my story, too. Just, the next one(s), I’d like to write more intentionally; explore plot lines deeper, know characters more thoroughly–connect with myself, my circumstances, and the people around me, playing important parts in this story as well as their own stories. In this next chapter I want to embrace the chaos through interacting with it. To work on embracing the moments as they come and appreciating the little things. To be grateful. To own my mistakes and say sorry. To practice more self-care and define what that looks like for me, and begin yet again to work at feeling things and feeling better in all ways: I know from experience I am happiest and feel best when I connect with myself in ways that don’t let my mind and body and spirit exist separately, but together. Things like exercise and meditation and how physical activity especially helps to make my ADHD a strength rather than another source of struggle, how both of the above allow me to use my brain and body in tandem rather than simply as vehicles for one another. And, as for the Storyteller, yes, it’s challenging myself to dig in to this act of spirituality as well. After years of struggle with this, I had a realization today, after I’d been toying with a little more interest in the Bible the last few days. I’ve always been candid that I do not believe in infallibility of the bible, yet attending church in previous seasons caused me to be frustrated by this fact–because I was supposed to believe everything in there and I didn’t. Today, I realized while reading The Road to Becoming: “What if I stop looking at the bible as a thing I have to believe every word of, and instead as another thing to explore?”

shoreline of rocks with lake behind, and row of forest/trees in distance with cloudy evening sky above. I am opening my eyes to exploring.  Really, everything above: from exercise and nutrition and writing and meditation and creating things and being connected–owning my life, in other words–is all about exploring. Discovering where the map for this season, this chapter leads me. Where I am going and how I am going to interact with what surrounds me. It is all about choice.

So why am I not choosing these things? Because it’s work. It means changing myself within my circumstance in tandem with accepting where I’m at. Yet, I know this is important, and that I should make these smallish huge acts of self-care a priority. I can create excuses but I can also create change. And I know my body, and my spiritual and mental wellbeing will thank me for one far more than the other.

I need, though, to stop trying to do this on my own. Because my excuses to remain stuck sound a lot less dumb in my head and I should be forced to admit them more often.

You took me / straight to the Healer / You were my believer / when I couldn’t even see it for myself / and now I’m whole, I can feel it / now I can see it / when I couldn’t even say it for myself / You said “it’s time to be well”

The people I’ve coached to make positive life changes… I have always told them to do it with someone. I have frequently volunteered to be that person. Time to take my own advice ;). Sometimes, an app is not enough–positive peer pressure can be.

the young want to change the world
the wise want to change themselves
the young want to change the world
but i just want to change myself.

spent, let it happen (spotify link)

For now, this season, I need to change myself.
Again. Continually.

Cabin to left side, flowers focused in foreground with lake and trees behind in distance, unfocused.
it is time to be well.
it is time to grow.

Society has this vendetta against being lost.

I’m reading The Road to Becoming by Jenny Simmons right now. It’s opening my mind to the fact that lost can be okay. I mentally made a commitment to read more books about lostness (though, I think that the majority of books are kind of, in a way, written about lostness in one form or another). I did re-find The Art of Non-Conformity in my room, though—The War of Art is somewhere I cannot find.

Fitting.

Yesterday, my friend Drew asked on Facebook “Since a lot of people check in on *me*, how are *you*?”

I replied,

I am far too awake for midnight, and far too content with being mildly misplaced in this season of my life.

Misplaced is really the same as lost. Lost does not always mean forever: misplaced and lost, in the sense of being, are very much the same.

I am pretty okay with being here. Here means there is room for ideas, for growth, for challenge and change and hope. It means I can try new things because the old things clearly aren’t reciprocating as they need to be.

Except society really isn’t interested in teaching twenty-three-year-old university graduates who are funemployed* what they are doing, where they are, is okay.

*Funemployed is a word that probably my cousin Dean invented (or stole) one summer when I was unemployed. I use it now to describe my sort-of employed state doing projects that only sort of count as employment and/or don’t pay me yet.

The Road to Becoming has a chapter called Iowa Cornfield, and the next called Lost Girl.

Some people are desperate for a detour. It’s a pretty good litmus test for figuring out if you are in the right place or not. if you can’t stand your current situation and secretly wish the road you are on would close in front of you so you can take a much-needed detour, it’s probably time for a life change. Don’t wait for the road to crumble; it might not ever happen. Pack your bags and get going. You have permission to write your own Road Closed sign.

I wasn’t interested in any of that Road Closed business. I wanted a road. My road. The original one that we had a map for. So my answer was to stay at the Road Closed sign until someone from the Iowa Department of Transportation showed up to explain themselves and cleared their stuff OUT OF MY WAY so I could continue on the road I planned on taking.

I will sit here until you build me a road. Take that, highway bureau.

The thing is, I’ve never been given the option to lay out the roads. The only choice I get is what to do when the road suddenly ends.

—Jenny Simmons, The Road to Becoming (page 99)

I don’t know much about Iowa cornfields, but as soon as I saw Lost Girl at the top of that page, I knew that this book landed in my hands right now for this reason.

Self-reliance, fully mapped out futures, and divine epiphanies; these were the things that young adults should strive for—not lostness. Accepting lostness as a viable way of existing, if even for a short season, is not a mantra our culture is familiar with.It certainly sounded backwards to a girl who was desperate to move forward.

[…] Time to accept the seemingly insignificant nothingness of the blank page in front of me.

—Jenny Simmons, The Road to Becoming (page 104-105)

Lostness is, perhaps, the fervent search to find where you are going right now. It does not matter for how long, maybe lost is a place after all, whereas misplaced is a temporary-ism without the intensity of lostness. To do things without having to commit to them forever, to get by, to explore, to do things you’d never anticipate because you are now that person in that place you never thought you would be because the world prepared you otherwise.

The world doesn’t prepare us for lostness. We prepare ourselves.

We don’t all get to be lost. Even fewer of us don’t all get to embrace being lost. I tried already to become found quickly, and through that, I’ve only discovered that found probably isn’t even where I want to be right now—and definitely isn’t where I need to be. Six months ago, I made the realization, again, that I am more happy discontent—at least in this season. And being funemployed for the last five months challenged me to learn how to embrace that discontent.

I am living inside a blank page, a blank canvas, a Word document with only the cursor blinking.

I am content in discontent.

One in ten Canadian kids has asthma—and a lot more than that have an affinity for soccer. Debbie Spring’s book Breathing Soccer (2008, Thistledown Press) focuses on both of these aspects in an approachable way that encourages kids to learn more about their asthma and find balance through developing an understanding of their disease, while not allowing asthma to hold them back. I received Breathing Soccer last week, and today had the chance to sit down to chat with Debbie about the book.

Breathing Soccer can be found on Amazon [Canada and USA], Chapters/Indigo, or directly from Thistledown Press.  Please continue the discussion by asking questions of Debbie [or I] below, and I’ll be sure to pass them on for her to respond to!

Disclosure: I received Breathing Soccer from Debbie for free after reaching out to her about the book; we agreed to conduct an interview following to my reading of Breathing Soccer–I was not required to provide a favourable review—I do certainly recommend the book, though :].

There are a few things I have opinions on—a lot of the time I just shut up, but sometimes I get argumentative, and sometimes I get argumentative about my opinions with people on Twitter. We are usually quite civil about it, but this is the first time I ended up reviewing a book out of the scenario. I connected with author Lira Brannon last week—connected is a nice term, in retrospect, I did interrogate her a bit about the “inspirational” nature of her book A Different Kind of Cheerleader, and the type of “inspirational”-ism that was implied, as the book is both centred around disability and Christianity. As I said on Twitter, “Disability isn’t inspiration: it’s life”. Lira, however, dealt with my interrogation well, and when I asked if I could receive an electronic copy of the book for free in exchange for a review on my blog, she agreed and quickly hooked me up with a Kindle download code.

Trigger warning: The later aspects of this review mention self-harm and suicide.

Three-sentence summary: 
The main character, Tansy, is a thirteen-year-old with a spinal cord injury [SCI] from a skateboarding accident in her childhood. Now a paraplegic, Tansy has all but abandoned the dream she and her best friend share of successfully qualifying for their junior-high cheerleading squad. As she starts junior high, she is introduced to a variety of new people who change her perceptions about what she believes she is capable of—and what she thinks about God, and who she was created to be, and to become.

Target age:
I’d throw this one in the 10 to 15 age-range—but, I personally enjoy teen fiction, so go with what works for you/the kid you’re trying to buy a book for.

Thoughts:
Overall, while the core aspects of the plot were fairly predictable, there were enough twists in the core of it to keep me interested and guessing—I started reading the book late Thursday evening, kept going until 1:30 AM, and finished it off the next morning [and people, my Concerta would have worn off at 11:30 or so—it was the book keeping me going].

While the core aspects of the book include Tansy’s desire to become a cheerleader independent of her disability, the author paints a very clear picture of the rest of Tansy’s life: starting at a new school and dealing with how her teachers respond to a student using a wheelchair (i.e. the typical ‘I can’t walk, but I can hear’); Tansy’s feelings towards her disability (anger, resentment, and eventually acceptance); responding to how her friends perceive her disability; relationships with her mother, brother, friends, physical therapist; and how her SCI and using a wheelchair pose additional contemplations within the already complicated life of an adolescent trying to figure out her place in the world.

Though I slated the book for younger ages, there are some themes including self-injury, attempted suicide, and suicidal ideation present in the book that may be more suitable for slightly older readers. The mentions of these aspects are brief, however, they were a source of confusion for me as I didn’t think there was enough detail preceding or explaining the circumstances in which Tansy’s acquaintance from rehab, Meg, was hospitalized following a suicide attempt (this may require a re-read on my part). While not comorbid, I appreciated that the author intentionally mentioned the mental health aspects associated with living with a disability and/or following a traumatic injury.

The storyline brings Tansy to interact with a variety of people who become a part of the bigger story unfolding—pressures from different people lead her different directions: some into finding the confidence to try out for cheer, others who cross her path in unexpected ways that help teach her about God—and through these conversations, more about the people around her. While some characters seemed slightly out-of-place [i.e. I don’t care if he’s the coach’s son, why the heck is the youth pastor hanging out in the middle school gym and at cheer tryouts all the time?], for the most part, the interaction of the themes surrounding Tansy’s daily life learning to more fully coexist with her disability, and the journey towards believing in God, was well structured.

I thought, despite all the #inspiration[al] tags, that overall the author did a decent job at not sensationalizing Tansy’s accomplishments, and allowing her to both succeed and screw up as much as a character without a disability would have, with a few exceptions of circumstances that wouldn’t have arisen if not for Tansy’s disability […which obviously is realistic]. In terms of the realism of integrating Tansy into the cheer team, I [being an adapted physical activity nerd] felt that Lira addressed the types of “wheelchair tricks” Tansy was able to learn well, but would have enjoyed reading more about how she became a true team member and not just a possible story of oh you’re in a wheelchair, we’ll let you on the team even though you blah blah blah through more concrete examples of how she used her chair as an asset and not an inspiration–such as how she would be integrated into team and more gymnastic-type and how existing routines were adapted. But, like I said, I’m a nerd that way.

Reading Guide:
A question guide is provided in the back of the book, which prompts the reader [or an educator or youth leader, etc.] to reflect on what they’ve read. The questions are evenly distributed between faith, friends, family, and Tansy’s disability. Though I never use reading guides on my own [because, what is this, school?], it’s definitely a nice bonus feature.

Recommendation:
A Different Kind of Cheerleader is geared towards older-school aged kids and younger-teens—an easily approachable read, with enough plot twists and serious/more mature themes to keep older readers engaged Cheerleader would be a great way to approach the topic of disability in a variety of settings. As both faith and disability are core-topics [and often very confusing], I’d recommend younger kids (under 12) be supported through reading this book, by a parent, mentor or educator, to best facilitate learning and enabling kids to ask questions and form a better understanding of their own thoughts on both core themes.

Final thoughts:
A Different Kind of Cheerleader is an approachable and engaging book for readers in their younger teens [and, if you’re me, early twenties], presenting a variety of opportunities for critical thought on faith and disability. With multiple quick unexpected turns in the plot, Cheerleader is easy to get lost in for a few hours, and would be a suitable way to begin a discussion on teens’ thoughts on what it means to live with a disability—and hopefully, one that can help realistically assist them in contemplating how to restructure their thoughts on a variety of different topics.

A Different Kind of Cheerleader can be found on Amazon. You can learn more about Lira on her website, and through connecting with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Disclosure: I received a free electronic copy of the book, A Different Kind of Cheerleader, from the author, Lira Brannon, which I offered to review prior to finalizing the agreement. I was under no obligation to provide a favourable review.