by Chaz Hayden
This coming-of-age tale is a first novel for Hayden. It is about a sophomore in high school who moves with his family from San Diego, California to New Jersey. That sort of move, in and of itself, would be challenging for any teen-age boy. But Harris Jacobus is not just any teen-age boy. He has spinal muscular dystrophy and has to have a physical assistant for all aspects of his life. His skeletal muscles do not function very well, but his mind and the rest of his body are fine. Harris has accepted his limitations, but he has never learned to relate to other people or to make friends with people his own age. He also never had good luck with the medical aides assigned to assist him. He relies on his mother to always be there and to take care of him.
Harris hopes that this move will bring big changes in his life even though he and his older brother will be going to separate high schools. Harris would like to have friends—maybe even a girl friend, but in order to do that he has to learn how to let people know who is. Harris has a theory about people’s favorite colors and how they will relate to him. His favorite color is blue, and he believes that people whose favorite color is blue, green or violet will not be compatible with him. He thinks that opposites attract; therefore, his best chance for having a good relationship lies with people who are orange, red, or yellow. The first question he always asks someone is, “What is your favorite color?” Their response colors the way he thinks they will interact with him.
The first person he meets is a girl by the name of Nory. She is in most of his honors classes, and they get paired up as homework partners. But she refuses to tell him her favorite color. The next person he meets is Zander, a nerd who sits with two other nerdy guys at a lunch table and whose favorite color is yellow. And the next important person to come into his life is Miranda, his personal assistant, whose favorite color is red. Harris calls her his executive assistant. Through each of them Harris gradually learns to be a normal teenage boy. Then, because of events in his life, he shuts out Zander and Nory; and Miranda leaves him because of her behavior. Harris finally grows up and realizes that Zander and Nory did not abandon him, and that Miranda, although she took him to rock concerts and drove fast, was not a good friend to him.
I was totally blown away by this novel. It is real and gripping. It allows the reader to experience, with no holds barred, the life of a teenager with a life-altering condition. The author, himself, has spinal muscular atrophy and lives his life from a wheelchair. It must have taken a great amount of courage for Hayden to write this book and be so open about how people with different abilities are treated. He openly discusses how his teachers talked about him while he was present and how others spoke to him as if he were a child. There are a few expletives and Harris does get drunk at a party on night. But the book points out that this behavior was wrong, and Harris regrets it. I highly recommend this book for any middle school and high school student.