Hailey has a list of fears, things she wants to overcome (like a fear of spiders). And when she does work through them, she crosses them off her list. The most ominous fear of all might be that she is going slowly blind. But the worst fear is really trusting others and allowing herself to fall in love.
Kyle is shy and tormented. His only friend is a Russian boy (being homeschooled after a traumatic assault that Kyle witnessed – an event that Kyle can’t seem to move past). Kyle cowers from his fears (his mother, bullies at school, and telling Hailey how much she means to him). And while Hailey convinces him to start a fear list of his own, the two of them can’t seem to move past their shared fear to express what they feel for each other.
In a story that avoids cheesiness and becoming overly precious, Hailey and Kyle manage to long for and miss each other through the years. The less-than-subtle irony of course is that Hailey’s macular degeneration is hardly the most significant way in which she suffers from blindness – both of them are tragically blind to each other. But as heavy handed as that sounds, the story is actually much subtle. The missed signals and the aching doubts and fears are surprisingly believable and uncontrived. These are people who actually communicate well, are honest with themselves and each other, and yet never quite connect. That they do so believably makes them all the more endearing.
One minor complaint is the accelerated pace of the ending. The novel starts quite slowly but really speeds ahead in the end, covering months and months in a few pages and allowing major events to unfold without much development. I get that the authors had little to say about the latter events, but it felt uneven.