Saturday 18 August 2018

Disability, Disney and Discussing Empathy- Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow

Hello! Today I will be doing something a little different as I will be hosting a guest post from another blogger! Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow is a brand new YA contemporary that focuses on empathy, so Walker Books came up with the brilliant idea of sharing each others personal stories on our blogs to try to encourage empathy between us.

This post is from Pippa (Life of Pippa) and focuses on how living with an invisible illness affects her day to day life. 

My name is Pippa, and I’m a lifestyle blogger from Yorkshire. I became chronically ill at the age of 15, and began to use mobility aids at the age of twenty. Today, I’d like to talk about invisible illness, empathy, and the place that really drove it home for me… Disneyland Paris.

Something I often consider is at what point an invisible illness becomes visible ‘enough’ to ‘earn’ the empathy of others. Why? Because despite using an extremely visible mobility aid, many non-disabled people are still inclined to question whether I actually look unwell enough to need a wheelchair. I’ve talked many a time about people’s perceptions of my invisible condition, and what it’s like to be an invisibly ill wheelchair user, however it was my recent experience at Disneyland Paris that was a particular eye-opener for me.

For those who don’t know, Disney operates a Green Access Card system: a majestic little piece of paper that allows people with specific conditions to jump to the front of ride queues, skip the lines for meet and greets, and even bag the best viewing spots for all the shows. However, with using such an awesome system came unwanted attention that really highlighted just how stigmatised invisible conditions still continue to be.

In Disneyland, you enter rides from the exit, so that all those poor people who’ve queued relentlessly for hours to get on their favourite rides have to watch you glide past and hop on and off the attraction before they’ve even edged forward an inch. This is where things got slightly uncomfortable. Each time I approached a ride, I knew that all eyes were on me as I calmly stood up from my wheelchair and carefully made my way to my seat on the attraction. Sometimes, the intense attention could simply be attributed to people’s curiosity or sheer boredom from waiting in line. Other times, you could detect the scorned looks from a distance: people wondering what was actually ‘wrong’ with this person who looked and walked exactly like them, and why they were getting this special treatment.

Each time I made this small journey, I couldn't help but wonder whether there was anything I could do to give this attentive audience just the slightest insight into the numerous hidden symptoms I experience on a daily basis. My friends and I often joke about how people might be more accepting if I dramatically face-planted out of my wheelchair onto the ground and proceeded to let them drag me across the floor from A to B, and whilst that is clearly something I’d never do (for one, I’ve seen what people throw on those floors when they think nobody is looking…), you can’t help but wonder whether people’s perceptions would change at an outright display of suffering.

At what point does a condition become visible ‘enough’ to meet the general public’s satisfaction? And why am I questioning how to make my illness more visible, when really I should be questioning why my condition has to be visible to warrant empathy from others?

To an extent, I can understand. Many of Disneyland Paris’ visitors are British, and if there’s one thing us Brits like, it’s a good orderly queue system. To have waited for such a long time and then witness somebody appearing out of nowhere, then seemingly abandoning the mobility aid that got them there in the first place? Before I got ill, who’s to say I wouldn’t have made assumptions too?

However, this is what I’d like them to know. Not only is my illness invisible, so is my condition management. My

holiday wasn’t spent waltzing between attractions from dawn until dusk. On a typical Disney day, I had a few hours outdoors, followed by solid bedrest, a heck of a lot of medication and usually extreme coercion from my carer before I could face venturing outside again. I live with constant chronic pain and fatigue; to have to queue for just one attraction, even in my wheelchair, would leave me suffering for the rest of the day. And if you made me choose between spending my diminishing energy waiting in a queue for a ride I might be too poorly to get on by the time I reached the front, or pacing myself and making sure I’m well enough for cuddles with Mickey Mouse, I’m sure it’s a no-brainer which one I’m going to choose. You might wish for my magical Access card, but trust me, you can have it if you take my chronic illness too. Maybe I don’t look ill ‘enough’ to satisfy your curiosity or avoid your assumptions, but that doesn’t make my illness experience any less valid.

In the future, I hope that Disney continue to develop their wonderful accessibility practices, that the general public’s awareness of and empathy towards chronic invisible conditions continues to increase, and perhaps most importantly, that I get to go on It’s A Small World some time again in the near future. That ride is seriously adorable.

If you’ve had similar experiences to me, I’d love to hear them. How do you think we can remove the prejudice surrounding invisible illness?

My Thoughts

I found it quite easy to empathise with Pippa, as although I don't have an invisible physical illness,I have been diagnosed with a mental illness. Like Pippa, people assume that just because I look fine that I am fine, but what they don't see is what's going on inside my head, the constant anxiety I experience from being out in public, and how difficult it is for me to do a simple task such as going up to a cashier to pay for something.

I wrote a post on my struggles with social anxiety which you can find over on Alice's blog, so be sure to check that out!

I'd like to say a big thank you to Pippa for sharing her story!

Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow is now available to purchase, and I will be sharing my thoughts on the book very soon!

Thursday 9 August 2018

Review on The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue

When Monty's father offers him a chance to go on a tour of Europe, he jumps at the chance. What could be better than touring the continent with his best friend Percy? However, Monty's idea of drinking and gambling are soon shot down when he learns that a guide will be joining them, and to make matters worse, his younger sister Felicity will be coming along too. Things go from bad to worse when the group is attacked by highwaymen, causing them to lose their guide and become stranded in a foreign country with no money. Monty soon realises there is more to the highwaymen than stealing from random travelers. They want something that Monty has taken, and they won't stop chasing him all over the country until they have it. Monty's tour ultimately turns into a manhunt, putting the lives of himself and the two people he loves the most in danger.


I could probably just end my review right here if I didn't have to scribble down my thoughts on why I adored this book. I just want to shout from the rooftops about how much I love it, but as that isn't socially acceptable, that is what my blog is for!

I honestly have no idea where to start talking about this book, so I'll start with the setting. I adore historical fiction, but it seems to be difficult to find historical YA books unless they involve time travel. Gentleman's Guide is set in Europe during the 1700's. Apart from books that focus on slavery, I haven't read any fiction set in this time period, so I was excited to read about these characters. I adored the imagery that we were given through Monty's tour, from the descriptions of the palace of Versailles to the beauty of Venice. I loved how we saw everything for the first time through Monty's eyes, and as this is probably the closest I'm going to get to my own tour of Europe, I loved how the imagery was so vivid and easy to imagine.

So I should probably talk about the plot, which I honestly just want to go on a huge rant about, but will refrain so that I don't give away spoilers. I loved that there was plenty of humor this book, and some of the situations Monty managed to get himself in had me laughing out loud. However, there are also some pretty dark themes, including slavery, racism and physical abuse. Monty being physically abused by his father was completely heartbreaking, and it was clear throughout the novel that it had a long-term effect on him. It was horrible seeing how badly he flinched when anyone he didn't know touched him, and how he thought he was overreacting and should just let himself be hit, as it was what his father had taught him to do. This was the most upsetting part of the book for me, but although Monty suffers because of his father, I loved that he slowly realised his father was a terrible person and was able to distance himself from all the awful things he had said to him.

So the characters, OH MY GOD THE CHARACTERS. I've talked about Monty a little already, but I've not even scratched the surface on how much I adore him. His dimples, his hair, his cocky personality, JUST EVERYTHING! Honestly if Monty doesn't make you swoon I don't know what will. Like all good characters, Monty has his problems, but one thing that made him so excellent was the character development he went through. He was initially pretty selfish, and although Percy was the one who was sick, Monty still made it about himself, and decided what they would do so that he could keep Percy. He never actually listened to what Percy wanted, and this is something that completely changed towards the end of the book. I felt as if what Monty's fate could have been was shown perfectly through another character, and Monty caring more for what Percy wanted was one of the big changes to his character.

Now bare with me as I'm about to rant about the actual love of my life Percy Newton. Honestly, I can't even decide if I love Monty or Percy the most they're both so perfect. Like Monty, Percy had his own problems to deal with, including having epilepsy. I was honestly almost in tears over the initial reveal, as he had kept it a secret from Monty so that he wouldn't worry about him. I felt as if Percy was the opposite of Monty in that he constantly put others before himself, and although he rarely defended himself, he was fiercely loyal to Monty. Being mixed race in high society was a rare occurrence in the 1700's, and although Percy came from a wealthy family, he was often looked down on for the colour of his skin. It was horrible seeing him allowing himself to be talked down to and seen as “other,” as if he felt he had no choice but to accept it. Percy is such a kind, gentle and sweet character, and I honestly wanted to hug him and protect him from all the people who were cruel to him. It was horrible that he felt like he was a burden to Monty, and instead of being angry that they weren't allowed on a boat because they wouldn't allow any black people who weren't slaves aboard, he apologised to Monty. I feel as if my reaction would have been similar to Monty's despite Percy not wanting to cause conflict.

So before I start on a rant about the romance in the book, (It's a positive rant!) I have to talk about how much of a bamf Felicity is. Felicity, who is only fifteen years old but stitches her own wounds while the boys almost faint. Felicity, who would rather attend a medical lecture than a ball, and who has no time for boys. She was such a positive role model, and I honestly wish more books had characters like her. I am absolutely ecstatic that Mackenzie is going to be writing a sequel focused on her!

OKAY SO THE ROMANCE. So one thing that I always adore is the friends to lovers trope. Honestly it's so cliché, but it's a rare occurrence when it happens and I don't find it adorable. The romance between Monty and Percy was completely adorable, and I honestly couldn't cope with how shy they were when it came to admitting they had feelings for each other. There were some really sweet moments between them, and I honestly wanted to shout at Monty that Percy liked him back. It was so frustrating thinking they were finally going to get together, only for Monty to somehow ruin it. Honestly, I really can't cope with this boy sometimes! I found it ironic that Monty had said Percy must be stupid if he didn't know that he had romantic feelings for him when he had no clue about Percy's feelings for him. I also have to point out that Monty is bisexual, which I was completely over the moon about! I find that there are so few bisexual characters in YA, so I adored this about Monty. Another thing I loved was the way consent was handled. Although they don't go as far as having sex, it's mentioned a few times, and both Monty and Percy don't shy away from the subject. A lot of YA books seem to tiptoe around sex, giving little hints that it was going to happen, and then skipping to the next day. Although I'm not the type of person who enjoys reading detailed smutty scenes, the fact is that teenagers have sex, and it's something that should be talked about rather than implied. Although the boys don't have sex, things do get a little heated between them on a couple of occasions, and I loved that Percy always asked Monty if he was okay with it.

I realise I haven't talked about the plot enough, but this review is getting far too long! If you want to read a wonderfully diverse book about pirates, highwaymen, alchemy, and boys with dimples falling in love with other boys, this book is for you!

  | Amazon Book Depository