Sensitive by Allayne L. Webster : Book Review

Favourite Quote: “New Me wants to say, So do you have verbal diarrhoea or are you just unbelievably rude? But the force is strong in Old Me. A lifetime of habit is hard to break. I hide behind my hair.”

Sensitive by Allayne L. Webster covers the highs and lows of being a teen different to the norm. A teen who doesn’t quite fit the mould of a popular or pretty girl.

After relocating to a South Australian country town, SJ wants to reinvent herself. She’s determined to make new friends without her eczema joining the conversation.

“For once, I’m going to know how it feels to be beautiful – just like normal girls.”

Much of SJ’s emotional journey was relatable to me.
There is common ground that many people who are disabled/chronically ill share. This common ground includes the internal dialogue: a desire to fit in and be ‘normal’, rebellion against the medicine regime and medical professionals, questions over fairness.
Another section of common ground is external: shaped by the expectations and behaviour of society — taunts and comments along with questions and well-meaning but utterly unhelpful advice — not to mention the questions that arise if your behaviour pattern doesn’t fit with how others perceive disability/chronic illness.

[Image Description: The cover of Sensitive by Allayne L. Webster. On the bottom there are three eggs, along with a pot of cream.]

Sensitive is not an authentic read by chance. Allayne drew upon her own experiences with chronic atopic eczema and life-threatening allergies. Not only are the emotions that SJ shares with the reader authentic, Sensitive contains medical accuracy based on experience.

It’s an authenticity that speaks volumes on the importance of #ownvoices

Sensitive is a powerful read, and I highly recommend it.

Book Review : I Can Jump Puddles by Alan Marshall

I first read I Can Jump Puddles in my childhood, but if asked, I couldn’t honestly tell you what it was about other than the autobiography of a child who had survived polio.

Challenge 6 in the Aussies Rule Reading Challenge, from Sue over on Doddyaboutbooks calls for a book which features a character with a chronic illness or disability, and as I’m looking at expanding my school’s collection of Australia classics, it seemed the ideal time to revisit I Can Jump Puddles.

My first surprise was the innuendo between the men and the nurses in the hospital when Alan was in hospital awaiting his operation. What was clearly a peek show is dismissed by the nurse as nothing but a ‘freckle’, but at the time it had clearly sailed well over my head.

Much more of a surprise was the connection I felt to Alan in this second reading. A connection that hadn’t been apparent as a child, mostly likely because I had not yet experienced the social stigmatism of disability.

I too, can recount many times that society has disabled me more than my own body has. That the weight of words, the “You can’t do this” and the “You shouldn’t do that” was often the catalyst to achieve more than had been expected of me. And like many disabled people, I overcompensate. I work harder to be considered an equal.

During Chapter Twenty-eight, in the midst of a sing-along, a character called Prince sings, “Will the Angels Let Me Play?” a row ensues, where Arthur gives Prince a mouthful for singing a song about a crippled child. Alan, he points out, does not know he is crippled and the song should never have been sung in front of him. That’s when the irony hit home for me – just like Alan had not connected himself to the child in the song, I had not connected myself with Alan as a child. I Can Jump Puddles was a book about a boy with Polio and as far as I was concerned, it was a book about a life that was very different to mine.

As an adult these universal connections between disabled people are crystal clear to me, and while every disabled or chronically ill person travels a different path, we face many of the same challenges.

I Can Jump Puddles isn’t merely a snapshot of the times, or the journey of a boy determined to live fully, it’s a message that deserves to be heard and remembered. It’s a cry of defiance against the social model of disability and a reminder of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity.