Review: Chasing Wishes by Nadia Simonenko

Book description (taken from Goodreads).

“”I wish I didn’t have to go home. I wish I was someone else—someone with a future…”

For sixteen-year-old Nina Torres, it feels as if life is nothing but a dead end. Despised by her rich classmates and afraid that she’ll become just like her drug-addicted mother, Nina’s future seems to get dimmer every day.

There is one bright spot in her life though…

Sitting beside her one night, the only person in the world who cares about her makes a promise. No matter what happens—no matter how much Isaac’s wealthy family disapproves—he and his girlfriend Nina will be together forever.

Fate plays a cruel trick on Nina, though, and a visit from Child Protective Services the next morning turns Nina Torres into Irene Hartley, a woman with a future but who will never see her beloved Isaac again.

Nine years later, a blind and incredibly handsome young entrepreneur hires Irene to be his personal assistant. Terrence Radcliffe reminds her so much of Isaac that she can hardly believe her eyes, and she’s falling for him fast. Irene knows that fairy tales don’t come true, but she allows herself one last wish. She wishes that she could finally say goodbye to Isaac and let herself take a chance on Terrence.

What she doesn’t know is that Terrence is also searching for someone: a shooting star who streaked through his life nine years ago, and he won’t give up until he finds her…

Chasing Wishes is a powerful contemporary tale of lost love and wishes come true, recommended for ages 17+ due to adult content.”

There are often problems with books featuring disabled characters. Sometimes, these are minor issues, like getting a guide dog command wrong, issues that though avoidable, I can forgive. Then there are other books, books clearly written by someone who knows nothing about the very disability they are writing about. Unfortunately, Chasing Wishes was one of those books.

There was nothing realistic about the blind character at all, nothing. It was so incredibly disappointing because in this day and age, with the internet, with organisations like We Need Diverse Books and Disability in Kidlit there is no excuse for this kind of thing. A simple Google search would have debunked most of the tropes that this book was full of.

For starters, the blind guy in this book goes nowhere on his own, not even his own house. He’s been blind for five years and yet he needs somebody to guide him to his bedroom.

“Here we are, sir,” says Marcus, and I let go of his arm and grab the doorknob. I’ve memorized my bedroom, and I guide myself the remaining six steps in and then three steps to the left where the edge of my bed awaits me.

We don’t count steps…I mean really, really don’t count steps. Firstly, stride length is so unreliable, what if you’re in a rush, wearing different shoes, or even just walking casually. Your stride length always varies a little. It is an extremely dangerous and unreliable method of navigation, and a blind person wouldn’t do it, especially when being guided.

His personal assistant even has to take things out of the drawers in his room for him. It was so utterly ridiculous I found myself laughing at times in a mixture of incredulity and disgust. Oh, and did I mention he has a guide dog…yeah, one he never uses.

“That’s an odd name for a dog. Why’d you pick it?”

“Similarly to the original Columbus on his western voyages to India, my dog can’t find shit,” answers Terrence. “No matter where I want to go, he inevitably finds the kitchen refrigerator. He’s a wonderful companion but the least competent guide dog ever, so instead I make Marcus take me everywhere.”

That is just…so unbelievable. Later in the book, the female mc mentions she finally got the dog to walk on a leash. This author clearly knows nothing about guide dog training, and it’s an insult to the schools that work so hard that she’d even write in a dog like that. No, guide dogs aren’t perfect, but this portrayal is beyond ridiculous.

The male mc, the blind guy, is a millionaire, spending all his money on seeking a cure for blindness. It’s not like he lives in some shitty deprived area where people struggle to get skills training. He has all the money in the world he could spend on it, but the author just acts like blind people are incapable of anything so there’s no point. He can’t even use a computer, that’s such a basic aspect of skills training I couldn’t even believe it.

And guess what…in the end he gets cured, can see again and life is perfect…because of course, you couldn’t possibly ever be happy living as a blind person.

There were so, so many problems with this book. The author had an absolutely dreadful attitude towards blindness, writing a character incapable of the most basic tasks. After 5 years being blind, this is extremely unrealistic. The underlying message was that you can never be happy with a disability, that your life will always be less. You will never learn to do things for yourself or function as an independent adult. Honestly, it’s an insult to all the blind people out there who are working hard, who are living their lives. In particular to those who have lost their sight, who have worked to gain those skills without millions of dollars to help them. People who have had to move across the country to a better area where they can access that training and don’t have any support to do so, but still do it because they know that with the skills they can do pretty much everything they could before.

These tropes are so harmful because they do directly affect people with disabilities. If someone is to read this book, having never interacted with a blind person before and then I show up and they are interviewing me for a job how do you think they will feel? All they know of blind people is a character in a book who couldn’t do the most basic of things. Do you think they will look at me in the same way they would a sighted applicant?

And then the trope, the notion that a cure is the only way we can live. It’s not, far from it. But books like this just force down our throats that we will never, can never be happy with a disability. It reinforces the stereotype that disabled people are less than, that we can never be equals. I’m not against science, by any means. I help out where I can by donating blood and sharing pictures of my eyes with the medical community. If that can benefit someone then great. But do you know what I spend my life doing? I focus on school, on getting an education, on-going out with friends, on playing sports, on having a life. Because I am not a shell of a person. I have real interests and experiences and as a community as a whole we deserve accurate representation.

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