Waiting for No One
Written by Beverley Brenna
Red Deer Press, 2010, 187 pp.
The idea that someone could have a different perspective than me used to be confusing. (p. 57)
Taylor Jane Simon is age 18 ¾ and a “would-be bookstore employee” if she could muster the courage to apply for the job and face addressing her Asperger’s syndrome with a complete stranger. Applying for the job may also mean controlling her swearing, her dislike of the color yellow, and her avoidance of other people, which are all things she is working on. Taylor wants to live independently but knows that she must attend to other aspects of her life that are related to her Asperger’s before independence can become a possibility.
Waiting for No One presents Taylor Simon as someone who often negotiates the world in a very literal fashion while also attempting to understand the nuances of both the behavior and language of those around her. Readers will be delighted with Taylor’s frank and often comical perspective of the world; she is a young woman with an uncanny way of pointing out the discontinuities of life around her. They will also begin to see aspects of their own lives as they face the same struggles Taylor attempts to tackle as a teen, wanting to be independent but not quite ready to take it on alone. Through Taylor’s eyes, readers become aware of the social strangeness of their communities and their interactions with other people, and throughout the text they will also begin to wonder why it is so hard to just accept others as they are. Indeed, Taylor’s towering strength is that she knows how to reach out and advocate for others with extreme challenges. This is especially the case with the character Martin Phoenix who has cerebral palsy and uses a speech generation device to talk.
Beverley Brenna is a writer and assistant professor at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada. She has written a number of books including Wild Orchid (2005) and The White Bicycle (2012), both of which round out Taylor Simon’s story. Winner of the Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award for Waiting for No One, more information about Brenna can be found on her website. In an interview at the end of the book, Beverley Brenna shares her purpose for writing, which is as enlightening as the text itself.
Written with upper middle and high school students in mind, Waiting for No One would make a great companion to texts such as Marcelo in the Real World (Francisco X. Stork, 2011), Probably Still Nick Swanson (Virginia Euwer Wolff, 2002), and Stuck in Neutral (Terry Trueman, 2012) to address themes about teens with disabilities attempting to live independently in spite of the adults around them. To extend understanding about individuals with cerebral palsy and little or no speech, Martin Phoenix’s experiences could also be compared and contrasted with the character Melody in Out of My Mind (Sharon Draper, 2011).
What is often missing in the texts written about young people with disabilities is the voice of the young person or novels that allow that person to be the protagonist. The five novels listed above present young people as the protagonists of their own lives. Teachers may wish to address the issue of who speaks for those with disabilities as well as how to have frank conversations about and with youth with disabilities, as these are often missing in classrooms.
Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio
WOW Review, Volume V, Issue 4 by World of Words is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Based on work at https://wowlit.org/on-line-publications/review/v-4/