Monday, 5 August 2013

What I've Been Reading:
'World Enough and Time' by Emma C. Williams

But at my back I always hear
Time's wing├Ęd chariot hurrying near; 
And yonder all before us lie 
Deserts of vast eternity.
'To His Coy Mistress' ~ Andrew Marvell

'World Enough and Time' by Emma C. Williams was 'recommended' to me by based on some books I'd read previously. The premise fascinated me and, seeing that I had it on my 'to-read' shelf, the author contacted me asking if I would like a copy to review. Of course, I accepted, and here we are...

Anna Jones is your typical 15 year old. Intelligent, sensitive and feisty she's got a lot going on. Firstly, there's Michael, a close friend who she'd like to be closer to, then there's the fiasco she's gotten herself into with her RE teacher and a badly phrased opinion. But the biggest thing going on in Anna's life right now is the build-up to an operation she's been waiting a lifetime for. An operation that could change her life completely.

You see, Anna has Goldenhar Syndrome, a genetic condition that prevented one side of her face developing at the same rate as the other. As a result, her face is severely asymmetric,  one half of her jaw is underdeveloped causing complex structural problems. Anna is also almost completely blind in one eye and has less than perfect hearing in one ear. She also has scoliosis of the spine as a result of her condition. And yet Anna does not let any of this get her down.

At fifteen, she's already gone through a lifetime of medical procedures, examinations and orthodontic devices but finally it is time for the operation of all operations. An eight hour procedure to transplant bone from one of her ribs into her jaw and hopefully make her face more symmetrical. Anna hopes that the procedure will allow her to live life in the same bubble of uncertainty that others do. There won't be any more over-friendly shop-keepers trying to show that they don't care how she looks, there won't be any more kids pointing and asking their parents what is wrong with her, and maybe, just maybe, Michael might find her attractive enough to date.

'World Enough and Time' is a beautiful novel. Told from Anna's point of view we get an exquisitely crafted and insightful look into the mind of a fifteen year old who just wants to live her life without prejudice. Unusually for a novel told from the point of view of a teenager, I really did feel like Anna was talking to me directly, as though the author had channelled Anna and was relaying her thoughts on to the page. Anna did not feel fictional. She felt thoroughly 3D, a fully developed character who I could really care about and wanted to spend time with. In fact, I didn't want the novel to end as I wanted to spend more time with Anna and her friends and I'd be happy to read an entire series of books devoted to Anna Jones. (Thankfully, I've discovered that Anna has her own blog! I'll definitely be checking that out.)

This novel taught me a lot. Not just about Goldenhar Syndrome, which I'd heard of before but didn't really know a lot about, but also about life in general. It taught me that no matter what we think of ourselves, no matter how hard it can be for us to believe that other people will ever find us beautiful, there will always be those who hold us up when we're down and see the beauty that hides within us. It made me pause for a moment in my own navel gazing and contemplate how different and more complicated my own life could be.

This is one of the best Young Adult novels I've read in the last couple of years and I want to urge any YA fans out there to get their hands on a copy and everybody else to buy a copy for any teenage girl in their life. 

5/5 - a firm new favourite.

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