“I want to be all right.”
“Define ‘all right’.”
Juniper Johnson’s life shattered the moment that her spine did. The teenager had initially planned on attending an elite high school for students with superabilities. Instead, she is shipped off to Effective “Defective” Academy – an institution for children with superabilities and disabilities. With the help of her friends, her kind professor, and her less-than-kind mentor, Juniper learns what it means to be disabled, what it means to be a superhero, and what it means to be human.
This is probably going to be one of my favourite books of the year. It’s funny, it’s painful, and it opens up the potential for so many gorgeous sequels *hopeful face*.
The Defectives follows a young girl who was involved an accident, and now must learn to use a wheelchair. As she enters into a world that thus far she’s had the privilege of ignoring, she learns a lot more besides. Effective Academy is where the superhero society puts its disabled superpowered kids. It’s behind a big wall so no-one else has to see them, and though most (all?) of the teachers are disabled, the headmistress herself is able-bodied and frequently patronising to both her students and her staff.
So it’s not a utopia. But Juniper isn’t going to let people talk down to her, or ignore her – even if she wants to at times, there’s no way her mentor’s going to let her give up. And as she forms stronger friendships than she’s ever had before, with other superpowered disabled kids and adults, together they push for something better – for the recognition and opportunities that have been denied them. Throughout the novel, Juniper deals with the prejudices which she has regarding disability, and figures out how to deal with it when others express ableism towards her. This is a book for and about disabled people, but there are some important lessons for able-bodied people to take away from it as well.
And it’s a beautiful book! Wonderfully written, with completely great characters. Juniper has to deal with a lot, but the thing that helps her most is something we all need – a support network to help us get through our struggles and to call us out when we’ve done something wrong. I’m a big fan of support network leader, snappy-but-caring father-figure Ryder, and I think you should go and buy a copy so that you can be too. It’s so wonderful to watch Juniper’s friendships blossom until she’s strong enough to both take down giant monsters and befriend villains. When I finished this book, I turned right back to the front and started reading again. Not an exaggeration.
It’s own voices, the author uses a wheelchair. MC uses a wheelchair. The only non-disabled characters in it are the villains (and you’ll see why). No love interest for the MC – easy to make an argument for her being a-spec (the place is called Ace City you guys, so I’m definitely there) – but there is a side romance that I think is done really well. Found families. A pig with a wheelchair. Blindness, asthma, autism, anxiety, a girl with no arms, a chubby girl – and that list is just the characters I can remember off the top of my head. Here’s a more in-depth post by the author which, if you’re not already convinced, should definitely persuade you to buy this book.
The Defectives by Burgandi Rakoska was published in May 2016.