Today I’m going to be talking about 100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons. When I saw it on NetGalley, there were so many things that drew me into this book! It’s about a girl named Tessa who loses her vision for 100 days. She writes poetry and is in need of her outlet, and that’s where Weston comes in. Weston is an amputee who understands some of what Tessa is going through, and comes to write the poetry Tessa dictates despite her not wanting him around. Weston stays because he enjoys someone treating him normally since Tessa can’t see his disability.
Doesn’t that synopsis sound wonderful? There were so many things that drew me in from that synopsis. I love books that center around disability, and so I requested this book. As I was reading, however, I became increasingly frustrated with the way things were handled, and I realized that part of my frustration came from having read other books that I thought handled things better. So I decided to write a review that would go through my issues with this book, and instead of just leaving it there, I’d also recommend a book that I thought handled that aspect well in its place.
When I started this book, I was actually enjoying myself. I highlighted a quote I liked, and although the writing never wowed me, I was happy to keep on reading. But slowly things started piling up. At first, I was willing to ignore some of my issues because I thought they would get resolved, but when I kept reading and matters were only getting worse instead of better, my opinion started to change.
The first thing that bothered me was the main character Tessa. She’s obviously going through a very difficult time, but I did not like how she reacted to Weston’s presence. Part of this had to do with how one-dimensionally I felt she reacted to things. I could see Tessa’s anger, and I could understand it at times, but I never quite felt it. I felt detached from Tessa’s emotions and that kept me from empathizing properly. This tended to be a big issue throughout the book, where the writing kept me from relating to characters, but it was strongest with Tessa.
Now, one of my favorite books follows an unlikable blind main character. Not If I See You First was quite possibly the first book with a blind character that I read. But while Parker’s not likable, I loved reading this book because I understood exactly why she was acting in such an unlikable manner. She was processing a myriad of emotions and I could feel them all throughout the book. If you’re looking for a book with a blind main character, or just a good book in general, I definitely recommend this one.
But still, I could have handled all of that, and still given this book 3 stars. But Weston’s journey was what really made this a one-star read for me, and so I’m going to spend the rest of this review focusing on him. Things might get a bit spoilery, but I don’t recommend reading this book, so I don’t mind leaving those bits in.
It first started going downhill once we started getting Weston’s backstory. Now, you learn how Weston loses his legs, and I’m not really going to comment much about that aspect. Weston is an adrenaline junkie that makes the worst decisions he can on a daily basis, so skateboarding off a roof may not have been the stupidest thing he did in this book.
What really bothered me about his story was his recovery. I have several quotes from the ARC that made me reaaaaally mad when I read them. I want to preface by saying that I am not an amputee. However, I am in college at the moment for biomedical engineering. One of my ideal careers is making prosthetics. Because of that, I’ve done quite a bit of research on the subject. So this topic feels very close to my heart.
It all starts when just days after surgery, Weston decides to have a positive outlook. While I was okay with this on its own, I disliked how that meant that Weston decided to be just as careless and stupid as possible, just without legs. Especially since I for one don’t see that as character development.
The first thing that bothered me was that Weston decided to completely disregard what his physical therapists told him. To the point where this was an actual quote from the e-arc.
“They gave me a piece of paper with safety guidelines on it. I crunched it up and tossed it out the window on the drive home.”
Ummm. What now? I understand that not everyone reads the directions their doctors give them, but to deliberately disregard what they said in that fashion didn’t sit well with me. And I was right to be worried.
What followed were a series of just idiotic actions meant to show that Weston wasn’t letting his disability stop him. But I don’t think it’s brave to climb the stairs in your prosthetics for the first time in the dark with no one around. I think that’s stupid. And rock-climbing without a harness? A bad idea whether you’re an amputee or not. And for both of these things, he was applauded! No one told him what he did was dumb. And you’d think that after the stunts he had pulled to get him into this situation in the first place, it would come up!
My reaction to everything Weston did in this book
But that’s another thing that bothered me. No one but Weston is affected by him losing his legs. His mother continues to let him do whatever he wants without ever even telling him to be safe or showing much worry at all. His brother who was there when he first sustained his injury gets over his guilt for his part in the situation after the two hug it out once. I was so confused by this because I didn’t see how Weston’s disability affected anything or anyone. No one changed, not even Weston! The only way we see Weston’s vulnerability is through his attempt to push away any girl who can see his disability. But this wasn’t developed well and was just out of character in a variety of ways whenever this plot point was put into play.
So what can you read with better amputee representation? I have two books for this one. The first is The Running Dream. It’s one of my favorite books, and I love how we follow the journey that Jessica takes after she loses her leg. I think this book had all the nuance that I was missing in 100 Days of Sunlight. It had the ups and downs and had a character move forward after she lost her leg, with the help and advice from those that cared about her.
Brave Enough is another one I’d recommend. This follows a dancer who loses her leg, and her recovery process as she falls in love with a former addict. Again, this book has nuance and development that I didn’t find in 100 Days of Sunlight.
Moving on from the amputee aspect, I also got very upset with the way consent was handled in this book. Normally, if consent isn’t written out but there are no issues, I don’t take much issue, although I’d like for consent to be verbalized more. What bothered me about the consent in this book, is how it was clearly stated that she didn’t give her consent, but he kissed her anyway.
“Then I whisper, “I’m gonna kiss you. Is that okay?”
It’s not fair, because I don’t give her any time to reply. Instead, I press my lips against hers. Without permission.”
It’s specified and written out that he was kissing her without permission. What I don’t understand is why include a part about asking her in the first place? Either you’re overcome with passion and kiss her, which has its issues, but I’m more comfortable with that than this scenario where he’s taking the time to ask and them not even waiting for an answer. I don’t see any excuse there. If you took the time to ask the question, you can take the time to wait for the answer.
What’s more than that, Tessa’s reaction was just to assume that someone asking for a kiss was a rhetorical question.
“He kissed me.
He literally kissed me.
I’ll never forget the way that felt. Soft, sweet, dizzying. He asked my permission, but didn’t wait for a reply—and even if he had, I don’t think I would have been able to reply. How do you reply when a boy asks if he can kiss you? Especially when you’ve never even seen the boy? Especially when you want to kiss him back?”
I would say that you should answer yes. And that you don’t just brush this off as an impassioned kiss. It’s a matter of consent. And I actually have a book with great consent to recommend to you. I’ve mentioned it before, but Coming Up for Air was one of the best books I’ve come across when it comes to consent, YA or otherwise. The characters make it a priority to discuss everything and listen to one another, and to make sure they’re comfortable with the direction their relationship is going. And of course, I think the book is pretty great in general.
Those were my biggest issues with the book. I have so many other little issues and quotes, but this already is a long, ranty review and I think mentioning any more is unnecessary at this point.
I did not enjoy this book and was a bit upset to see all the wonderful reviews it has been getting. I understand wanting to support an indie author, and I’m glad people enjoyed her book, but there were so many problematic elements in this book that I’m a little worried that so few people have mentioned them.
I normally end my reviews saying that I’d recommend a book, even if I didn’t enjoy it. That’s not the case here. I cannot recommend this book after seeing the way things were handled in this book. This is one of the very few books I’ve rated 1 star, but by the time I finished reading, I couldn’t see myself giving it any other rating.
What book did not work for you? What are some books that you love featuring a character with a disability? What books do you have an unpopular opinion about?