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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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These two talented authors took subjects near and dear to them – the glorious city of Chicago, running, anime, yaoi, cons, and audio books to name some – then combined them with two men who turned out to be beautiful complements to one another. Add the elements of loss, courage, vulnerability, healing and, yes, humor to the mix, and the result is a book I loved.
Kyle is voice-over artist. He’s fun loving, popular, and having voiced a very popular character for several years, he’s a legend among anime fans,. Kyle’s long-time partner Matt is a steady presence in his life, but their spark has been gone for quite some time. I applaud the authors for starting the book by showing us a relationship that is very meaningful, but is not going to be the focus of the story. Kyle suffers sudden loss of his vision, resulting in a long hospital stay even before he can begin learning to adjust to life as a blind man. Matt is by his side that entire time, but knowing they had long been more like brothers than lovers, Kyle insists Matt leave to pursue his career rather than continue be tied to Kyle. This was handled in a very adult, plausible fashion – with the two men remaining good friends.
Before you start thinking this is a story with high anxiety levels, or a character who turns into a jerk by feeling sorry for himself or by lashing out at others, let me assure you, this is not that story. Kyle remains strong and kind. He still jokes around. Kyle is a character I admired greatly and was rooting for all the way. Sure, he has his frustrations, and he does eventually reach a boiling point, but he adapts to the basics of his blindness with dignity, and even quickly becomes quite adept at regaining his cooking skills. His sister Lily moves in to help with his adjustment period, and I found her to be a fun and likeable character, even when she did start to meddle a bit. The two siblings had a close and caring relationship, with lots of joking going on between them, despite the gravity of Kyle’s situation. Lily is actually quite key to the story.
Kyle meets Seth one day by literally running into him, and a short time later, fate brings them together again. When Kyle decides to sign up for a running guide, Seth is who he gets paired with. Seth has returned to Chicago to care for his mother, and despite being fun and easy going on the surface, he’s also dealing with demons from his past. Seth and Kyle had a fairly immediate attraction, but spent time becoming friends and actually dating before jumping into anything heavy. I found the slow burn realistic and fitting for the men and their situation. Kyle having let Matt go, dealing with his blindness, his loss of work, his loss of sense of self. Seth was dealing with his mother’s illness, his re-location, his long-held guilt. The two men were honest and open with one another, and made a steady climb toward being a couple in love – each man helping the other to cope. How refreshing!
I was personally fascinated with learning more about Riddoch syndrome – Kyle’s form of vision impairment. It was something I’d not heard of previously. Kudos to the authors for their obvious research regarding this condition, and their authentic presentation of an individual coping with it. As a huge fan of audio books, I was grinning broadly at the cameos made in this story by some of my favorites in this field. Kyle learning to adjust his skills from film voice-over to narrating audio books felt like the perfect fit for him. This story is in Kyle’s POV, and at times I felt the need to be in Seth’s head a bit more, but the dialogue between the two men did a great job of letting me know Seth’s mind. I wouldn’t have minded hearing more about Kyle’s physical recovery, and initial phases of learning to cope with his blindness. However, the focus here was meant to be on the struggles and triumphs of moving forward.
This story is about never losing sight (I know, pun alert!) of the big things in life, of accepting challenges and rising above them, of recognizing who has your back and who would like to take on that role. Kyle and Seth rocked it. It’s an inspirational story featuring characters that are authentic, raw and real. A truly wonderful book.
While the blurb indicates the potential for a lot of angst and drama, this book is surprisingly low on that scale. There was a lot of good in this book, including the writing and the characters. I was intrigued by Kyle’s medical condition as Riddoch syndrome was something I had never heard of and I enjoyed Kyle’s journey adapting to his new life, unfortunately the romance aspect of the story didn’t work all that well for me.
The authors waste no time getting into the story. We meet Kyle and his longtime boyfriend Matt as they are starting their day and heading out to work as usual, but later that day Kyle lays down for a nap to get rid of his headache and then wakes up in the hospital. The details of his weeks in the hospital and then even more time in rehab are not the focus of the story and most of that passes with little mention. The focus is on Kyle not only starting over his life as a blind man, but starting it over as a single man after breaking it off with his best friend and lover Matt.
I liked the way the authors handled things between Kyle and Matt. Everything is very adult, no evil ex or horrible breakup storyline. Matt and Kyle have known each other half their lives and spent a good part of it as a couple and their friendship is something that is a big part of both of their lives and not something easily thrown away.
When Seth enters the picture, Kyle has made great strides in adapting to his visual impairment, but is still struggling with the impact on his career and his day-to-day life. He is not wallowing in pity, but has his moments where it all seems too much. For the most part though, I found him to be an optimistic character who is willing to push himself and make the best of the hand he has been dealt, but just needs an occasional pep talk or a push to remind him of who he really is deep down inside away from the blindness.
Seth has recently returned to Chicago after having been in California working as an attorney. He comes upon Kyle as they are both out running and Kyle literally runs into a problem. The two chat briefly and it’s not until a few weeks later that they meet again when Seth shows up as a prospective running guide for Kyle. They start off just meeting for runs, but soon start up a real friendship. It’s not until Kyle’s meddling sister Lily gets involved though that they start to explore a possible relationship.
Speaking of Kyle’s sister Lily, she has as big a part as Seth in this story, if not bigger. She is Kyle’s caretaker when he gets out of the hospital and spends most of her time with him. Even when she moves out, she still works out of his house and assists him with his work. Generally I despise meddling family members, but Lily fell just short of annoying for me. She was supportive and caring for the most part, but was way too pushy when it came to Kyle’s love life.
There is a super slow build up to the two men getting together. Seth doesn’t first appear on page until about 25% into the story and then the two agree to take things slowly, which makes absolute sense. Kyle isn’t ready to jump into anything and Seth has his own worries and secrets to deal with as well. The problem I had is that although there are plenty of sweet scenes between Seth and Kyle and plenty of fun banter, I didn’t feel the sexual chemistry between them. For me they made great friends, but I didn’t feel the passion and UST that they talked about having. I felt the relationship showed a lot of what we heard Kyle’s life with Matt was like, friends who love each other without that spark.
While the romance aspect of the story didn’t work that well for me, the rest of the book did. The friendship Kyle and Seth build was lovely and the way Seth deals with Kyle adapting to his disability did have me rooting for them to get their act together. Seeing Kyle find ways to dive back into a job that had him relying on his eyesight was inspiring even as he realizes more and more that his true love of voice over work for animation was likely to be over for good. Seeing him navigate the Cons he once loved and hearing the clamoring of the fans that still adore him was bittersweet, but there is a fantastic HEA in this story that had me smiling.
Although I wasn’t knocked off my feet with the romance, I think others will be. Despite that, I did find the story to be enjoyable and uplifting (and in my case educational) and was glad to have read it.
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