Ink Road Books have done it again. What is it with every single book of theirs being incredible? (Well, at least 3 out of 4 as I'm still yet to read The Jungle!) When they contacted me about being a part of the blog tour for 'T is for Tree' by Greg Fowler, I immediately said yes.
This is the story of Eddy, a boy who is different. He has spent his whole life in his bedroom and knows nothing of the world outside of it until Reagan moves in next door and introduces him to things - including jam sandwiches.
I gave T is for Tree 4.5 stars because it broke my heart, filled me with hope and enlightened me into the minds of other people by reminding me that people are never what they look like on the outside.
Before I jump into my typical gushing and incoherent thoughts about how much I loved this book, I want to touch upon some things that I think need to be addressed. First of all, Fowler is extremely vague when it comes to the details of this book. We are never told what makes Eddy "different". Then book was previously published under the title 'Jam Sandwiches' and in the description for that book we are told Eddy has Down's Syndrome (DS). This makes sense and I can definitely see that being what Eddy has in this version of the book, but it is never explicitly said and that bothers me: the whole plot of the book pretty much revolves around Eddy not being able to leave his room yet we don't really know why.
Now, I'm going to try and not go on a rant here but I have a feeling that Fowler kept this aspect so vague to avoid coming under fire from the Social Justice Warriors in the YA community - and lately there has been an abundance of them. You can't read a YA book now without someone giving it 1 star for racism, or not being own voices, or not being diverse enough. There is no book good enough for these people. And I think (I could be wrong) that the reason we are not given a diagnosis for Eddy is because the second an author says they wrote a book about an *x* character, they are suddenly scrutinised. Is this own voices? Do you know somebody who is/has x? Did you do research? Did you do enough research? and so on, and quite frankly it doesn't matter.
Now, hear me out. I'm not saying that it's ok to clearly disregard science/facts, but this books definitely falls into the fabulism category so of course things that happen to Eddy (or anyone else in the book) won't happen to someone with DS in real life - because this isn't real life. This is a fictional story with magical elements that obviously mean things happen in a way that isn't realistic. And that's perfectly ok. Everyone is different. People with the same medical/health conditions etc are completely different and experience things differently. This book has been the latest victim to a SJW rating it one star (and a few people don't seem to grasp what fabulism is...) so I just wanted to address this. Yes, Fowler should have been less vague and told us what made Eddy different, but by no means was this harmful representation.
For the record, none of the negativity I have read are from people who either are or have said they know someone with DS. I do in fact know somebody with Down's Syndrome and I did not feel that this was harmful to them at all.
Ok that did sort of become a rant... back to it.
This may or may not be considered a Spoiler so proceed with caution.
I think what irked me the most and what pushed me to not giving this book a full 5 stars was the sudden switch in Grandma Daisy's attitude. At the start of this book she is incredibly abusive towards Eddy - and I mean abusive. She is horrible. We're given hints that she kept Eddy because of her faith in God but that she still resents Eddy and wants nothing to do with him, then one tiny thing happens and suddenly she's all "oh I'm sorry I did this because I love you and the world is cruel". She goes from vile to dotting in one day. Personally, I don't think the evil woman at the start of the book could possibly be the living grandma at the end. Even with the book being Fabulist, I think she needed to be less harsh and more gradually become softer. However, I appreciate what Fowler was trying to convey through Grandma Daisy and I was only partially irked by this.
Ok, after discussion on the less than perfect parts, I think I have officially qualified myself to rave about this book now!!
First and foremost, this book made me crave jam sandwiches. I was going to insert a picture here of the book with some but of course we ran out of jam before I got the chance. Doubly sad as I am STILL craving some. I am so mad I don't have a tree outside my window that I can chill out on, eat some jam sandwiches and watch the world go by. It's not fair.
This brings me to my next point and probably my favourite thing about the book and that is how incredible Reagan and Eddy's friendship is. I haven't read a friendship so wonderful since the golden trio (Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley. I'm sure you all knew that... I HOPE you all knew that!), and even then I don't think there's compares to how beautiful this duo's was. Reagan doesn't treat Eddy any differently than as if he's just a shy kid. Even when they get older and she hangs out with boys and whatnot, they still have such a lovely friendship, even when they do have typical friend fall outs. They both try their damnedest to stay close. There are a couple of moments where romance sort of appears which I could do without but ugh, Eddy and Reagan are incredible. I wish we could see their lives as adults when they have families and things.
And finally, we see someone who is different placed into the spotlight. We see Eddy's thoughts and the way he thinks. We understand he might be 12 and not know the alphabet but he sure as hell knows which actions have which consequences and isn't dumb but in fact very clever. He's not book smart but he's still intelligent. And T is for Tree gets that across so well. It's easy to say we know that people with learning difficulties, disabilities and the differences are just like us but might take the scenic route in life but this book helped me truly understand that.
All said and done, T is for Tree filled my heart with so much hope and love. I utterly adored this book. The positives in this book - friendship, understanding, love - really outweigh the slight negatives and I will carry Eddy in my heart for a long long time.
Don't forget to check out the rest of the stops on the T is for Tree blog tour and make sure to get your hands on a copy!