Five Finds is a sporadic feature on my blog in which I share five books that match a given theme/subject/topic. Topics so far have included Fiction for Budding Cupcake Moguls, Picture Book About Birds and Wordless Picture Books.
The themes/topics for my Five Finds posts are inspired by actual interactions I’ve had with patrons in the library, and friends/family members outside of it. My mother was a nurse, and friends and family members would often seek out her advice for their various aches and pains, even in the middle of a Christmas dinner. Funnily enough, the same sort of thing happens when people find out you’re a librarian. I always find myself getting asked for book recommendations, but seeing as I could honestly talk about books all day every day, I really don’t mind!
This brand-new Five Finds feature celebrates YA novels starring or featuring wheelchair-using protagonists. Young people with mobility challenges, whether they are the result of medical conditions or accidents, are often relegated to supporting roles. These five novels put wheelchair users front and center, putting them in starring roles in their own stories. As a supporter of the #weneeddiversebooks movement, I’m hopeful that more and more fiction will allow young people with different needs and abilities to finally star as protagonists in their own right.
When looking for YA novels with wheelchair-using characters, it was inspiring to see how many novels are written by authors who are wheelchair-users themselves, or who are active members or allies of the disabled community. Finding mainstream novels with non-white protagonists, though, was a major challenge (I tried to focus on novels published by major publishing houses because they tend to be easier for schools/libraries to sources). Finding stories about POC wheelchair-using characters was a real challenge, and suggested that while diversity in YA fiction is improving, there still remains a lot of room for improvement and growth.
Another challenge I encountered was finding stories that feature wheelchair-using protagonists but which aren’t just about being a wheelchair user. I regularly encounter this when trying to find stories with LGBTQ protagonists that aren’t coming out stories. What I’d love to find is something mainstream, like a modern-day Sweet Valley High series (I’m dating myself here….) in which the lead characters just happen to be a gay guy and a wheelchair-using girl (bonus points if at least one of them is not white) who have typical high school experiences, like developing crushes, trying out for clubs and teams, solving local mysteries and getting into friendship dramas. Being in a wheelchair, or being black, or transgendered, or blind, or plus-sized, or whatever else can be an important aspect of a person’s identity, but it shouldn’t be their entire identity. We are all complex beings, and our physical attributes are only part of what makes us who we are.
OK, rant over, on with the list. :)
Brynn is just like any other 17 year-old girl. She wants to be popular, gets herself embroiled in friendship dramas, and heads off for summer camp. There just one thing that makes Brynn a bit different – she has cerebral palsy, and uses a motorized wheelchair to move and a computer to communicate. Dancing Daisies is a valuable addition to any YA fiction collection not only because it features a smart, independent female wheelchair user, it’s also written by a strong, successful young woman with CP who is a tireless advocate for others with the condition.
Co-author Chelsie Hill was in high school when she was paralyzed in a drunk driving-related car accident. Push Girl is a positive, semi-autobiographical account of Hill’s experiences adapting to life in a wheelchair. High school student Kara is paralyzed in a car accident, but refuses to let her new reality, and the perceptions and reactions of others around her, stop her from living life to the fullest.
Jessica is an accomplished high school runner who is devastated when she loses a leg in a car accident. Jessica is stunned by the reactions of those around her to her new reality – it’s as though people don’t know how to talk to her or act around her any more – it’s as if she’s become invisible. Jessica realizes that before her accident she treated a fellow classmate, a girl with CP, in exactly the same way.
The teen characters in Good Kings Bad Kings are just like teenagers everywhere, except for one thing – they live in a group home for youth with disabilities. Sharp, witty, humorous, honest, respectful and real, this novel challenges society’s perceptions about individuals with disabilities.
It’s the 1970s, and Jean, a smart, talented, successful young woman with CP, is attending Camp Courage, a summer camp for young people with disabilities. At camp, Jean will meet young people with very different backgrounds, attitudes and experiences, who will challenge, expand and explode her understandings of what it means to be disabled.