Not If I See You First is the debut novel of American author Eric Lindstrom. I’ve started this blog post with two of the covers from this book. The blue one is the original, and the green one is the cover from the French version which I read. By the way, the black and white dots are braille, the writing system for blind people. The title in French “Dis-moi si tu souris” means “Tell me if you’re smiling”. I adore both these titles, they just fit the book perfectly. I just love puns and word play, so the titles definitely made the book even greater for me.
So, the book is about a teenage girl named Parker who went blind in the same car accident where she lost her mother when she was very young. She lives by a set of rules, of which the three most important are:
Don’t deceive me. Ever. Especially using my blindness. Especially in public.
Don’t help me unless I ask. Otherwise you’re just getting in my way or bothering me.
Don’t be weird. Seriously, other than having my eyes closed all the time, I’m just like you only smarter.
Obviously these rules are not for herself, but more like a handbook for other people on how to act and not act around her. Parker is smart, brutally honest without a filter and she is very strong. However, when her father dies, her life becomes more complicated. Her aunt and cousin move into her house, so Parker doesn’t have to move and get used to a completely different house, city and school. We meet Parker three months after her father’s death and she hasn’t cried yet. She gets support from her diverse group of friends and is learning to get along with her aunt and cousin.
To set her apart from her peers, Parker wears colourful scarves over her eyes that match her mood of the day. Besides that she mostly wears black, to make it easier for herself. And she also loves to run. Parker is a bundle of surprises and contradictions trying to navigate teenage life. Things really kick up when she runs into her ex-boyfriend Scott again. He betrayed her a few years earlier, and she has never forgiven him for it, nor is she ready to give him a second chance.
“I know why I’m so sure of everything all the time; it’s because I can’t stomach the alternative, that I can’t be sure of anything ever.” – Parker
I am not going to tell you more about the story itself, because it’s hard to explain why it is such a great book. You should read it and experience it for yourself. After Parker runs into herself and is shown some brutal honesty, there is indeed a happy ending for her and her friends. But that is only part of the reason why I liked this book. It wasn’t full of clichés like I feared at first: yes it is a book about a blind girl in high school but I didn’t feel like it was chock-full of teenage clichés and ignorant statements about blind people.
Eric Lindstrom researched blind people and the way they go through life thoroughly and it showed. No cliché portrayals of blind people needing help and living only half a life. Nor did the story go to far the other way, showing blind people who play the hero and are capable of doing everything. I felt like I got a really realistic view into a blind girl’s life. Parker herself is also real person: she isn’t all good or all bad. She makes good and bad decisions and is better for it. She can be ignorant and naive about some things, and very knowledgeable about others, just like any other teenage girl. And her group of friends are amazing: they have all very different personalities, and each of them brings something different to the story. They are all valuable to the story and to Parker’s life in different ways.
“I love Sarah because she’s been my best friend and stayed that way when it got really hard to be my friend at all.” – Parker
The romance part of the story is your typical almost-love triangle between a girl, a new boy she likes and a boy she loved in the past. It’s a little cliché, but the added fact that Parker is blind and that both boys deal with it in different, equally good ways, makes it a little more interesting. The book also didn’t focus too much on the love triangle, but was actually more about Parker herself. She really grows throughout the book and her personal growth is brought along by the people around her. It’s all very believable and relatable.
All in all, I found this a very fun read. I laughed out loud, cried at some points in the book and was frustrated with the characters and the way they were behaving in others. I had no trouble seeing myself in the position of different characters in the book (yes, even the blind Parker herself) and it is a really relatable book. I’d definitely recommend it for teenage girls and those of us who are a little bit older and looking for a fun read.
Have you read this book yet? If not, I really recommend it! It’s not too heavy, despite the sometimes heavy imagery and subject matter. Let me know what you think/thought of the book in the comments!