Be forewarned, this review does contain spoilers for Jeremy Scott's The Ables
Jeremy Scott is a fantastically talented and creative author, who took on a tremendous challenge in writing from the perspective of a blind person. Authors must constantly search for ways to stretch and break free of their comfort zones, so as to discover their true potential. I wish I'd thought of writing from such a challenging perspective first…
So what did I love? First, the dialogue (and I highly recommend getting the audiobook, narrated by Jeremy Scott. He is gifted with such an expressive, melodic, radio-esque kind of voice, laced with a delectable, sarcastic garnish, which makes getting wrapped up in the words and dialogue inevitable). Every character's lines drip with personality, and I think this in no small part contributes to the greatness of The Ables. In a way, we as readers (if I may speak generally) are given the opportunity to become a part of the superhero town; we're part of Philip's group of disabled friends, we're in the front row, listening and interacting, absorbing every syllable, every breath, every tangible piece of setting and intangible stream of consciousness. Jeremy's dialogue brings us into the heart of the characters, and offers us a relationship with them, as only a skilled writer can provide.
My next praise is for Scott's use of imagery, the way he sets up each scene, brings us readers into this world of super heroes. This is no small task, as much of what we encounter in this world comes from the perspective of the blind. But even with this creative roadblock Jeremy Scott manages to paint us a perfectly detailed picture, one which keeps us grounded in the story and does not crumble beneath the weight of sightlessness.
Finally, The Ables tells a story worth telling. What a concept, to make super heroes out of disabled kids. What a wonderful idea. What a unique way to present a very real group of people--as heroes, as people, as equals, hindered only by that which they could not control, but can certainly overcome.
So what’s my overall rating? I give this book a strong 3.5 out of 5 stars. There were a few things that I, while reading, was not entirely on board with. The first (at risk of being accused of nitpicking) was the issue of Philip's sight. Several times in the story, I found Philip's newfound sight to be a bit strange for someone who'd been blind his entire life. The first time this hit me was when Philip and his friends petitioned before the board to be allowed into the games. In this scene, Philip is given his first glimpse into the seeable world, and he makes a few, quick observations. What I took issue with was the fact that he seemed to know too much. For instance, he says, "I saw a long, wooden desk, with the board members seated behind it." My issue came with the word "wooden." Would a blind person recognize wood if they saw it? I'm not sure. Now, it can be argued that since Philip is speaking in the past tense, he's long become experienced with sight to be familiar with things like wood. However, the way it was presented sounded more like he knew what it was the moment he laid eyes on it. Would he know how wood feels? Certainly. But what it looks like? I'd say no, very much in the same way he wouldn't fully comprehend the concept of colors, or be able to make the remark that the door was made of oak, as he does near the end of the discussed scene (I also think a section on coming to terms with colors would have been fascinating, as many blind people have commented on the absurdity of the concept of color in their perceivable worlds). Please, anyone, feel free to debate me on this. I'd love to discuss it.
Another issue I had with the story was the similarity some of the situations shared with other popular stories. While young heroes coming into their powers has been done, I do not take issue with The Ables in that regard, as disabled heroes is something else altogether. No, what I found a bit familiar was the hero's competition. It's no Hunger Games, but I did think of the Tri-Wizard Tournament from Harry Potter. Granted, the two are quite different, but the scenario of the hero meeting the main villain whilst in the midst of a school competition felt, as I said, familiar. Even some of the twists felt a bit overdone (I'll refrain from elaborating for spoiler reasons, but I'm referring to the villain’s identity, the bully, and the old man befriended by Philip's father).
Finally, my biggest criticism of the story was that it left me desiring more. Not in a sequel sort of way, but in the sense that so many scenes, to me, felt lacking of meat, like they'd missed their potential. For instance, when the boys meet Finch in the cornfield, I was ready for a real show—but all I got was a simple tap dance. This moment, to me, could have really been ratcheted up with the intensity. I would have loved to feel more like I was in the presence of this demonic beast, as he calls it. While Scott does describe the beast into which Finch forms, I felt as though it was lacking in the ballpark of truly terrifying or awe-inspiring. Of course, as an author myself, I know that sometimes all that is on the page is all the writer desires the audience to receive; and I am perfectly all right with that. The image in my mind, though simple, does paint a picture. However, I would, personally, have liked to get a little more. And not just from this scene, but from scenes like the final showdown, as well.
Overall, Jeremy Scott's debut book was a truly wonderful story. I thoroughly enjoyed reading through it, and will probably pick it up again (or give it another listen) in the future. The Ables is the kind of book that can spark some good debates and discussions, and I would very much like to see Hollywood reach out to Jeremy and pick up this original idea. As Scott’s awesome YouTube show, Cinemasins, can attest, Hollywood needs something fresh. This book is that something fresh. I wish Jeremy every success with his work, and ask that every one of you check out The Ables as soon as possible; and then come back here so we can discuss and debate our likes and dislikes.
Thank you, Jeremy! You've breathed some fresh air into the world of literary entertainment! Keep up the skillful, daring, and witty writing. I look forward to seeing what you have up your sleeve in the future.
Oh, and Go Team Donnie!
C. K. Conners
©2015 by C. K. Conners