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Owning It: Stories About Teens with Disabilities


Owning It: Stories About Teens with Disabilities

“Disabled.” “Handicapped.” “Special Ed.” “Cripple.” These are some of the terms --- positively or negatively --- associated with a disability. Often used by non-disabled and disabled people alike, these phrases can be frustrating at times for disabled teens or young adults seeking to be treated the same and/or wanting to have a fairly “mainstream” middle school or high school experience as their friends and classmates, as well as in life outside of school.

An anthology of 10 diverse fictional short stories, OWNING IT attempts to convey what many teens may feel and experience in real life. With realistic and at times stereotypical portrayals of the challenges and humor that go along with living with a physical and/or psychological disability, the stories cover such topics as Tourette’s Syndrome, ADD/ADHD, paraplegia, migraines and genetic morbid obesity.

In “Tic and Shout,” Cat (Catherine) strives to help her younger brother Alex, who has Tourette’s, have an average high school experience. But with taunts from classmates and an overprotective mother, this achievement is hard to reach. Gail Giles’s story is fairly realistic, endearing and, particularly during one pivotal scene, laugh-out-loud funny.

Alex Finn’s heart-wrenching and memorable “Brainiac” features Courtney Evans, an academically high-achieving cheerleader who has changed over the summer and appears to have developed a bad case of “Senioritis.” In fact, she is suffering from brain damage, which, at her mother’s insistence, she has to keep a secret. Courtney must try to keep afloat amidst the disparaging remarks, fears and sinking grades that threaten to take away the lingering hope she privately clings to.

Six years have passed since the accident that left her a paraplegic, but Olivia, the main character in “Good Hands” by Ron Koertge, still has difficulty adjusting to her new path in life. She can’t shake the fear that her classmates and friends don’t see her as Olivia, but simply as a girl in a wheelchair. “Good Hands” features some funny and not-so-funny moments that readers may find relatable.

I thought that a few of the stories here could have been expanded upon and/or would have been more appropriate for other anthologies. An example is “Let’s Hear It for Fire Team Bravo” by Robert Lipsyte. Recently diagnosed with testicular cancer, Michael meets a strange team of comrades and discovers that cancer is an enemy to wage war against. Emotional and gritty, the story could have benefited from an extra scene or two.

“Here’s to Good Friends” by David Lubar is about a wise-cracking guy named Brad whose underage drinking is spiraling out of control. Since no underlying disability or medical condition that led to or was affected by alcohol is clearly discussed here, this entry seems out of place compared to a majority of the book.

As a reviewer with a unique perspective, I have these suggestions: Why not an anthology including a few more stories with young adults living with a disability since birth, such as cerebral palsy? Or even publish another anthology, but include nonfiction stories as well? There are a variety of topics out there that could be written about, such as dyslexia, hearing impairment(s) dwarfism and autism, that I think audiences would be interested in and may even relate to as well.

Overall, though, the authors who contributed to OWNING IT have written some interesting, at times enlightening, short stories.

Reviewed by Sarah Sawtelle on February 26, 2008

Owning It: Stories About Teens with Disabilities
by Donald R. Gallo

  • Publication Date: September 28, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction, Short Stories
  • Mass Market Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick
  • ISBN-10: 076364661X
  • ISBN-13: 9780763646615