Sight Unseen by David Carroll
David Carroll’s Sight Unseen is an uncomfortable read on many levels. Since his diagnosis with the rare Stargardt disease, Finn is obsessively counting down the seconds to total blindness. His poor vision has already forced him to give up the mountain biking that he loves, and he’s lost many friends because of the protective walls he’s built around himself. He does have two friends; a loyal friend nicknamed Cheese who he’s invited along for the summer, and Tab, a girl he’s just met and to whom refuses to acknowledge his disability.
At his family cabin for the summer, Finn takes dangerous risks, such as canoeing alone and a heart stopping ride down the mountain in an attempt to feel like himself again. Adding to the stress level of this read is Finn’s compulsive list-making of things to do before “lights out”, which he plasters around his bedroom with a portent of doom. But in the ultimate “would you rather?” question, Finn discovers a mysterious island, where his vision is perfect and time stops in the rest of the world. But to stay on the island Finn must give up friends and family. This is a difficult read, it’s hard to see Finn lashing out and fighting the finality of his diagnosis, and the anxiety which he carries around every minute of the day. It’s a skillful author who can paint such an intimate and truthful portrait of a grim diagnosis, and leave Finn with hope for the future at the end.
This is David Carroll’s second nomination for Red Cedar; he was also nominated in 2014 for Ultra.
–Reviewed by Katherine Parker