Bowling for Soup: Maestros of high school angst
Samantha Wilson is dyslexic. She cannot read (at least not at the same level as her peers in high school). She is, however, quite adept at hiding her condition. Her audiographic memory, the availability of audio textbooks, a penchant for math, and two best friends (who share her secret and support her) have enabled her successful assimilation into high school “normalcy” (though she wishes for more).
Kate Scott’s Counting to D starts at the moment Samantha’s normal life is upturned. Her mother has gotten a job in Portland and they must move. Sam is upset but understands. Plus, as her friend, Gabby, tells her, San Diego “has a ton of drama that you get to escape. In Oregon, you can forget about the last fifteen years of crap you’ve gone through. You can stop hiding inside that crazy head of yours. You can stop pretending to be a normal girl and actually, you know, be one.”
Sam takes Gabby’s advice to heart. It seems as soon as she hits Portland she begins sharing her secret with everyone at her new school. First with Nate, a boy-poet from a clique of high performing students called the Brain Trust, and then with Eli, the nice-guy basketball player in her English class.
In addition to a history of Sam’s dyslexia and the concoction of coping mechanisms she uses to overcome it, Kate Scott seeds Sam’s story with potentially tense dramatic confrontations. For example, it is obvious Sam thinks Nate is cute but is also curiously attracted to Eli. Unfortunately, the situation is resolved too quickly and too neatly, as is the potential conflict between Lissa and Kaitlyn. The former befriends Sam early but distances herself after Sam’s dyslexia is revealed. The latter does the opposite.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been jaded by one too many CW TV teen dramas. I kept hoping for more emotional conflict. It was interesting to learn how Sam resourcefully circumvented the limitations of her condition, but these strategies were revealed in a way that were just one tear-soaked tissue above clinical. Her revelations reminded me of old B&W detective movies, where the hero gathers everyone in a room and matter-of-factly recounts the events leading up to his deduction. When he identifies the villain, the accused denies the allegation, there is a struggle, maybe a woman screams, and then villain is subdued and lead away.
I wanted to see a struggle in Sam’s story. I wanted a screaming woman. Kate has fit the pieces of her protagonist’s life together too perfectly. Sam’s language illiteracy is balanced by her math literacy. She is gifted with an audiographic memory, a mother who is comfortable speaking to her about birth control, and a boyfriend who understands her need to wait (and this is just for starters). As happy as I am that Sam’s life works out, I also have to admit that I wish the bumps in the road of Samantha’s life left her a little more shaken up.
Counting to D was introduced to me as “Young Adult” fiction and I suck at distinguishing between genres, so it is entirely possible that I am expecting something that is wholly inappropriate for the genre. Though she says her book is not a “how-to book or a self-help book,” Kate Scott’s Counting to D successfully dispels some inaccurate assumptions the general public holds about dyslexics. Overall, it was an enjoyable read.