by KB Meniado
When 16-year-old poetry blogger Tessa Dickinson is involved in a car accident and loses her eyesight for 100 days, she feels like her whole world has been turned upside-down.
Terrified that her vision might never return, Tessa feels like she has nothing left to be happy about. But when her grandparents place an ad in the local newspaper looking for a typist to help Tessa continue writing and blogging, an unlikely answer knocks at their door: Weston Ludovico, a boy her age with bright eyes, an optimistic smile…and no legs.
Knowing how angry and afraid Tessa is feeling, Weston thinks he can help her. But he has one condition — no one can tell Tessa about his disability. And because she can’t see him, she treats him with contempt: screaming at him to get out of her house and never come back. But for Weston, it’s the most amazing feeling: to be treated like a normal person, not just a sob story. So he comes back. Again and again and again.
Tessa spurns Weston’s “obnoxious optimism”, convinced that he has no idea what she’s going through. But Weston knows exactly how she feels and reaches into her darkness to show her that there is more than one way to experience the world. As Tessa grows closer to Weston, she finds it harder and harder to imagine life without him — and Weston can’t imagine life without her. But he still hasn’t told her the truth, and when Tessa’s sight returns he’ll have to make the hardest decision of his life: vanish from Tessa’s world…or overcome his fear of being seen.
100 Days of Sunlight is a poignant and heartfelt novel by author Abbie Emmons. If you like sweet contemporary romance and strong family themes then you’ll love this touching story of hope, healing, and getting back up when life knocks you down. Get a copy / Read reviews: Goodreads
WHAT I LIKED
I want to say it was the shiny, colorful cover that got me, but really, it was the losing eyesight part in the blurb. And the “no legs.” Because a YA contemporary novel starring two differently abled teens? Sign me up for sure, even if I have to receive a Word file, yes of course.
Given that, I had quite the expectations, and writing style-wise, they were mostly met. I liked the rhythm of the sentences, and in spite of the heavy themes, the tone just sang “everything’s going to be alright” to me. The plot could have been tighter and the dialogues cleaner, but also, I felt that the use of alternating POVs and flashbacks were the best way to go to tell a story like this, in which things get revealed slowly rather than right away.
Tessa was difficult to like at first (“a fireball of anger”), as she was understandably frustrated by what happened to her. (I have myopia with astigmatism so eyesight loss is a touchy subject as well.) There were times I wanted to shake her out of her ~darkness, like, friend, breathe that air, feel that love, they’re beautiful, aren’t you grateful to be just alive? More than being alive, she had a loving family in her grandparents, her poetry and her (online) friends, but she refused to ~see it. (Heh.) Thankfully, she gained more texture to her personality when she opened up to new experiences with Weston’s help, so I was able to warm up to her.
“Everyone tells me to get more rest—but how can I, when sleep is more exhausting that being awake?“
“Am I choosing to be defeated?”
Weston is a bit of a different story. He’s go-getting and charming, and he constantly seeks the brighter side of life. That’s not to say he’s perfect—I felt that the initial purpose of him working for Tessa was kind of self-serving. And that’s acceptable. To be amputated so young at 13, I understood his need to feel somehow ‘normal’ again and to be treated beyond what his prosthetic legs usually warranted. I thought it was helpful that he had good friendships (Rudy, what a star) and a supportive family as well (his dad, another star).
“You have a life, for crying out loud! You’re sitting there and you’re breathing in and out and you can probably see and you can probably hear and you can probably taste and you can probably smell and you can probably feel the sun on your face when you walk outside today. That’s five really good reasons not to be miserable. And if you keep looking, you’ll find new reasons all the time. But you’ve got to choose it. Over and over again. Every day, every hour, sometimes every minute. You’ve got to choose it. Just like I chose it.”
(I really felt for him and for the rest of the people out there who have to grow up fast and realize the facts of life. Salute~)
So he and Tessa coming together, learning from each other about how to make the best out of what they have? Yes! I was pleased to follow their adventures together, waffles, ukeleles and all. All of those are part of what a meaningful connection is about, and I thought the author was able to capture that in their friendship, which I feel is essentially the heart of this book. (Their eventual romance is another thing, which I will discuss below.) It was very cute, and given this Pinterest board and Spotify playlist the author set up for this story which I found before I started reading*, I could imagine the setting and the feel of the scenes. Netflix adaptation, anyone?
*I wasn’t following Abbie Emmons before, so when I got approved for this ARC, I started searching about her as well. It was really fun finding out that she’s an indie creator. She made that book cover by herself, btw! Check out her blog and YouTube videos.
(Spoiler alert! Highlight succeeding text to read.)
If insta-love is not your thing, then you might have an issue with how quickly Tessa and Weston fell for each other. They actually say “I love you” to each other a few times, and while I’m all for love, this might be off-putting to those who aren’t convinced of how deeply they connected on a romantic sense. I personally would have preferred if the author just left that hanging, and to let readers imagine what could have blossomed between them after Tessa got her eyesight back and found out Weston had prosthetic legs.
Speaking of which, I did have an issue with how the book ended. See, as soon as Weston realized Tessa was going to find out he was an amputee, he hid. It felt like a turn-around to what his character stood for and was about. I got that that was his main issue, and as a teen, visual beauty still matters, but I thought the story was way past that? All I’m saying is that it made feel a little confused and underwhelmed.
It would have been also nice had there been an appendix to discuss the medical conditions in the book, alongside the author’s research and insights, even personal experiences. (I’ve been trying to go through her YouTube and blog to find out why she chose these specific conditions, does she have them, does she have any family or friends that experience/d these, etc.) I would have also liked the church-going part of Tessa to have been explored more because her Grandpa was a preacher, after all, and you know, when people go through something, some usually hold on to their faith, right? It would have been fascinating to see her reflections injected in her poetry, which I wanted to see more and better of.
This is an easy book to read in spite of its heavy themes. It shows how teens can deal with a disability in different lights—from anger and forced optimism to connection and full acceptance. I’d recommend for YA contemporary lovers to pick up 100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons—it’s adorable and heartwarming. ☁️