Phillip Salinger is just a normal kid who happens to have a disability. He’s been blind since birth, but is pretty okay with his situation. Then, the day before he starts 7th grade, his dad takes him somewhere for “The Talk”. Of course, Phillip thinks his dad is going for the ever-so-embarrassing sex talk.
Little did Phillip know. “The Talk” involved him finding out he was a super-hero. A Telekenetic, to be specific. Unfortunately, the whole blindness thing means he is at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to using his powers. So its no surprise that he’s put in “special-ed” at the local Superhero school.
There he makes friends, a group that soon begin to call themselves The Ables. And then… he finds out exactly how much life can suck as, just when everything is starting to look up, everything starts to go drastically wrong. – Goodreads Synopsis
Review of The Ables
When I first wrote this review, I gave the book 4 Cool-thulhus. I did this because I thought that simply having diversity in the books was a good thing. I knew there were issues with the representations, but figured that simply having the disability diversity present balanced that out. After doing my interview with Corinne Duyvis, author of On the Edge of Gone (see that review here), I decided that I needed to revise this review.
See, through Disability in Kidlit, I learned that just having disabled characters present isn’t enough. The representations have to be accurate. If a character is blind, but that blindness basically doesn’t impact them because of some fix that happens early on or whatnot (as happened in The Ables), then its not a portrayal that should be lauded. So, read on to see my revised review of: The Ables by Jeremy Scott.
The Ables is an interesting book on a few levels. Its a non-graphic novel super-hero book (as far as I know. I listened to the audio book.) Its a book about middle-grade disabled kids (how often does that get done?) and its a book that reinforces to the reader that people with disabilities are, first and foremost, people. Its also a story of friendship, working together, fighting to be granted the same privileges other people have, and overcoming life-altering events like parental death.
Now, are all these topics dealt with in depth? No. Its a novel about a bunch of 13 year old boys, told from the perspective of the same boy at a slightly older point. Is the depression dealt on for pages upon pages? No. Its fairly briefly mentioned, but its obvious that the circumstances affected him. Is there a bunch of racial diversity? No. There’s like one kid that is not-white apparently, but as Phillip has been blind since birth – skin color is one of those “Oh, that’s interesting” type thoughts, so I can see why its mostly not even thought about by him.
Now, talking about accurate portrayal of disabilities: Phillip’s been blind all his life so, how in the world is he able to read when Henry projects images into his mind? Wouldn’t letters just be meaningless shapes?? I think maybe the author forgets his character’s disabilities sometimes (ie: the kid with one arm being tasked to do a two armed thing.) which is unfortunate because if the disabilities were portrayed accurately, this would have been a stronger and ultimately more interesting story (If not as dramatic on the surface).
This is not a perfect book. I won’t say that it is. Its not nearly the best example of a middle-grade/young-adult book featuring people with disabilities in it that I’ve ever read. But the story is entertaining, the author is trying his best to send a good message, and it was better (to me at least) than reading yet another entry into the YA Dystopian field (which seems to be all there is right now!). Every time things start to go right for the kids, something goes horribly wrong, so its not like its a “Yay, we’ve got super-powers and are going to kick butt!” story. Bad things happen. People die. Kids are unfairly treated and villainized.
Overall, this is a good book and although it has its issues, it was still entertaining, and its a story that’s rarely done, so I’m not going to gripe about it too much. The kids are good kids that get themselves in crappy situations, just like normal kids do. Its got a clean presentation, with only a few curse words mentioned. The story can move kind of slowly, but seeing everything come together in the end was fun. I would love to see Jeremy Scott revise it, taking proper portayals of disability in mind, and also not making who the hero was going to be so, so obvious! I would quite happily give it its 4th Cthulu back with those two items fixed!
Title: The Ables | Author (and narrator): Jeremy Scott | Publisher: Clovercroft Publishing | Pub. Date: 2015-5-1 | Pages: 364 | Audio Length: 9 hrs 52 minutes | ISBN13: 9781940262659 | Genre(s): Young Adult and Fantasy | Language: English | Triggers: Parental Death (mother) | Age Appropriate: Tweens+ | Rating: 3 out of 5 | Source: Self-purchased audiobook.