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Friday, February 21, 2014

Book Review: Counting to D

The kids at Sam’s school never knew if they should make fun of her for being too smart or too dumb. That’s what it means to be dyslexic, smart, and illiterate. Sam is sick of it. So when her mom gets a job in a faraway city, Sam decides not to tell anyone about her little illiteracy problem. Without her paradox of a reputation, she falls in with a new group of highly competitive friends who call themselves the Brain Trust. When she meets Nate, her charming valedictorian lab partner, she declares her new reality perfect. But in order to keep it that way, she has to keep her learning disability a secret. The books are stacked against her and so are the lies. Sam’s got to get the grades, get the guy, and get it straight—without being able to read.
I’m not sure what to be more amazed by: the description of dyslexia presented in this book that’s so different from what I imagined dyslexia is or the fact that author Kate Scott is dyslexic herself and was functionally illiterate for the first twenty years of her life. 

So here’s what I thought before I read Counting to D: People with dyslexia mix up letters, so dyslexia might appear as dyslxeia. But that’s now how it works, which Sam explains during the course of Counting to D. (Read Scott’s description of dyslexia here.) This was an interesting look at someone with a learning disability that’s often misunderstood.

What I loved was Sam’s natural smarts (she’s practically a math genius) in contrast to her inability to read. To fit in with the brainy crowd at her new school—and to keep the cute valedictorian from thinking her stupid—she hides her dyslexia. But as the story goes on, she shares some of her struggles with Nate and a reading teacher she’s forced to see. Through that, I got to learn how dyslexia works. It was fascinating to watch Sam learn the alphabet and struggle to identify an S or a B. That, I think, is the novel’s strength: revealing a learning disability that so many people misunderstand. It’s clear Scott understands dyslexia—not just that she’s done her research, which she obviously has, but that she’s struggled with it herself.

Sam’s narration slips into a teaching mode a little too often (she’s very wise and self-aware for a teen) and the conflict is resolved pretty easily, but the romance is cute and the story has a nice moral for teens: You can be both brilliant and illiterate. Your faults (or strengths!) don’t define you.

Anyone know of any other YA or MG books that focus on dyslexia?

An ARC of the book was provided in exchange for an honest review.

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