Love Blind by Christa Desir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a book I didn't want to end, which surprised me, because of the many twists and turns this novel takes with off again, on again friends Hailey and Kyle. At first, you might think Hailey's in your face and poke the bear approach to friendship is a bit off putting, but I found her demeanor and personality one that grew on me. Hailey often seeks to get a rise out of mumbly, nonverbal Kyle. He says very little, and is a clear introvert. No hidden extroversion anywhere. Despite her encroaching blindness (she's legally blind heading toward black blind), Hailey is able to get a true read of Kyle, and sees something she likes and worth pursuing in friendship. What Hailey perceives as control and the upper hand, however, soon unravels into a twisty turny story that is like a trainwreck you can't look away from.
Much of the story centers around the fear lists of Hailey and eventually Kyle, and the way facing these fears parallels the kinds of unspoken fears inherent in relationships, especially from two very broken people. Hailey is adopted by her two moms, and struggles with facing actual feelings and dealing with them when they happen, often leading her to make poor decisions, such as pursuing a hot bouncer dude over Kyle and then regretting her choice. By stuffing pretty much all of her feelings, she initially fails to sort out her actual growing feelings for Kyle, which leads to some rocky areas of their friendship. Kyle believes he is a bad friend to Pavel, who is now homeschooled after a traumatic incident Kyle witnessed but couldn't prevent from happening. Kyle finds himself taking the brunt of a series of attacks from guys seeking an easy target, leaving him bruised and withdrawn even more. He believes he is a bad friend to Hailey, and struggles with his growing feelings for her, which are at first completely driven by hormones and lust, but eventually mature into a desire to be a good friend, and in response to true care and concern which manifests as genuinely seeing her and knowing her better than anyone else does. Kyle's deepest struggle is with his mother, and the guilt he harbors for telling his father to leave and never come back after his father cheats on his mother for the umpteenth time. Kyle is ten, and his father leaves. This is a fear he places on his list, and each of the fears on Hailey's and Kyle's lists have a way of being faced before the story is over. The question is: can their friendship survive such a tumultuous journey?
What kept me reading was how each risk was brought into the pages, and dealt with in a way that either deepened the connection Kyle and Hailey felt for each other, or stripped away the lies, filters, and misperceptions each of them struggled with. It's heartbreaking, endearing, and a hot mess, all rolled together and complicated by two beautifully complex characters. Both of them failed to see themselves as fully as the other was able to see them. It's a long ride, spanning several years, but one worth the risk if you'll read it through to the end and commit to face despite the imminent blindness.
A powerful read unlike anything I've ever read. A love story as haunting as a song, as terrifying as every fear you can think of, and worth the risk.
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