CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 5. . . .October 2, 2015
Itís rare to find yourself cheering for a character from the first few pages, but, with eighth-grade Micah, you just canít help yourself. His self-deprecating sense of humour, determination to secure a place on his junior goal ball team, the way he tries to win his way into a classmateís heart and tries to spare his parentsí feelings, all combine to make him a very compelling teen to read about. Set all of this aside, and readers also learn that Micah is struggling with the dangerous flaring up of a degenerative eye condition and how this is changing his life, thereby adding a new tension to the already difficult adolescent years.
Micahís eye disease, officially classified as B3 by the International Blind Sport Federation, means that he can see at 6 metres what other people can see at 60. He has had a long history of appointments and treatments, and, by the time he is in eighth grade, he has reached a point where he would like to live life as much like a normal kid as he can. This means focusing on doing the things he wants to do most Ė make friends (possibly a girlfriend) and play goalball for his junior team. The sections in the book where the author describes Micahís goalball practices, games and eventually a regional tournament are fast-paced and fascinating. The glossary at the end of the book is helpful in fleshing out the details of the game but not necessary to understanding how it works because, as soon as readers are inside of Micahís head, they can feel why the game is important to him and why it is so much fun to play. Itís instantly fun to read about.
Shot in the Dark provides a very realistic portrayal of teen life and what it is like to manage the expectations of school and parents plus the added weight of a disability. When Micahís parents decide to sign him up for the guide dog program, Micahís first reaction is stubborn and sullen, and it takes him a few days to open up about his feelings. The way that the author allows Micah time to stew in his own unhappiness makes every part of his story feel more authentic and enjoyable.
At the beginning of the story, it almost seems like Micah has too much to cope with: academic difficulties at school, trying to show his parents that he can make his own decisions but doing so without hurting their feelings, deciding how to navigate the ups and downs of his medical condition and securing a spot on his team. Thatís a tremendous amount of pressure for anyone to cope with, especially someone as young as an eighth grade student, but the author (with catchy chapter titles like ďEye CandyĒ and ďBlindsidedĒ) lets him experience the low points of his life with all of their emotional explosions and fight his way back from them with success. Itís a surprisingly short book with a wonderful sense of humour, but this is balanced off by Micahís feelings of compassion for his parents and how they are dealing with his illness. In just 135 pages, readers are able to witness growth in Micahís character as he sees the mistakes he makes with his goalball teammates and tries to learn from them. Goalball is an important part of the book, but itís not the only thing going on in Micahís life as he also finds ways to adapt at school and in his relationships in the classroom. Micah is funny and real on every page, and the same feeling of knowing the character on the first page lasts until the end, making readers wish it would last a little longer.
Penny McGill is a library assistant and children's programmer with the Waterloo Public Library in Waterloo, ON.
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other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.