I gave the book four stars — ⭐⭐⭐⭐ — and summed it up as follows:
A well-written narrative of disability, dystopia, and exploration, featuring a main character with partial sight.
Full review below!
Leanora believes that everyone in her community was blinded by the Mists. She believes she is one of the few people to recover partial sight — a secret she is not allowed to share with anyone besides her father. She believes her mother is dead. She believes she is in love with Dex, the boy she's known since childhood.
The journey Leanora takes in Eloia Born shatters all of these beliefs — and more.
Eloia Born is both a dystopian narrative and a quest story; consider it a spiritual successor to Lois Lowry's The Giver and M. Night Shyamalan's The Village. We learn quickly that the people in Leanora's community are not blind by chance, but by design. We also learn — though the story does not state this outright — that the grand experiment of "a society without prejudice" has failed. Leanora and Dex are discouraged from pursuing a relationship due to their families' disparate standing among the community, for example. Blindness may prevent people from judging others on the basis of skin color or physical appearance, but they still judge.
When Leanora and Dex leave their community — as of course they do — the story begins to depart from similar, more predictable narratives. These two teenagers quickly discover that there are other people in the world, and other possibilities for friendship and romance. They learn new skills and their paths begin to separate. I appreciated Jensen's honest approach to the way people change in late adolescence, and the fact that "high school sweethearts" (for lack of a better term) do occasionally grow apart.
I am not blind, so I cannot speak to the authenticity of Jensen's depictions of living with limited visual ability; however, she includes a section at the beginning of the book explaining the research she did prior to crafting her characters.
The one false note I found in the story — and it is a jarring one — is the late addition of a character who speaks in a racialized patois: "Dey want you bless dem and stay wit dem," etc. This character has blue skin and is viewed as an "exotic beauty" by the white and brown-skinned characters, one of whom uses the phrase "like an animal."
For a world in which racial prejudices have been theoretically eliminated, it looks like some stereotypes are still going strong.