Time and time again, I’ve always said how much I love books about characters with disabilities. And no, I don’t mean that sadistically. As an occupational therapist by profession (well, soon anyway – graduating this June!), these stories already have a place reserved in my bookish heart.
Rating: More than 5 out of 5 stars
When it comes to love there’s no such thing as conventional.
Everyone thinks Colton Neely is special.
Lilly Evans just thinks he’s fascinating.
Once friends when they were younger, their bond is cut short due to her accident prone nature and they go their separate ways. Years later, they meet again and Lilly learns that there is something special about the boy she once knew, but she has no idea what it all means. And she’s not sure if she’s ready to find out.
When he walks through the corridor of her school the first day of her senior year, she knows that it’s time to get to know the real Colton Neely. The more she learns, the deeper she falls.
Their friendship grows into love, even as Colton does not express it in words. But one decision threatens to break down the world that Lilly has tried so hard to integrate into and she must figure out if the relationship can survive if they are apart.
I get to interact with children with developmental disabilities on an almost daily basis and many of our clients are on the spectrum. Before the character’s condition was actually revealed in the story, I’ve already formed my own theories about what the crux of the novel is going to be about.
So then, what is Puddle Jumping about?
Puddle Jumping is told in its entirety from Lilly Evans’ point of view. She was 10 years old when she first met Colton Neely. These two couldn’t have been more different! Here we have the reckless and adventurous Lilly and then there’s quiet and reserved Colton. 10-year-old Lilly was paid to babysit 9-year old Colton and a very unusual friendship develops between the two. It all came to a halt when Lilly’s excessively reckless behavior put her in the hospital twice while on babysitting duty. The Neelys then chose to keep Colton away from Lilly and Lilly was “fired”.
Unlikely romances always ALWAYS get to me. And Colton and Lilly? If I were in their shoes, a budding romance between the two of them is about as unlikely as it can get. Right from the very start, the stark contrast between their personalities had been glaringly obvious. But love is never cut-and-dry. Not all love stories are the same, and for this love story, their differences become the main thing that drew them to each other.
Colton and Lilly changed each other irrevocably in ways that they never even imagined possible. Their love is like a lightning bolt that struck them and blinded and opened their eyes all at once. They didn’t really expect to play such a huge role in each other’s lives but once they were in, they didn’t–and couldn’t–turn back. Colton and Lilly, despite their differences, made more sense together than they do when they’re apart. As clichéd as it would sound, they completed each other and I guess their journey to that realization is one of the most bittersweet things that I have ever read.
They never thought they needed each other but once they had a taste of what it was like to have each other in that way, they could not bear the thought of ever letting go. And the best part about it is that it did NOT feel like puppy love. Puddle Jumping tells a story of first love in all its complicated glory… made even more complicated by the characters’ unique circumstances.
For Lilly, Colton has become her grounding force. He keeps her in the here and now and as much as it goes against her reckless nature, being with Colton taught Lilly how each word, each action, each thought has its own consequences. And sometimes, one word can either mean the difference between keeping the boy she loves, or pushing him away. She’s a feisty heroine, that’s for sure. And this side of hers drew Colton to her. Her spitfire personality inspired him to come out of his shell and challenged him to jump right into the action of high school social life. At the same time, Lilly’s tenderness towards Colton gives him comfort when everything else becomes too much for him.
Colton finds a certain familiarity in the presence of Lilly. When he’s with her, he can just be himself and be confident in the knowledge that Lilly understands what he’s going through to an extent. And that’s where the problem comes in…
As much sense as they make by being together, they both feel like they can’t be whatever the other needs in a relationship. When certain choices and decisions threaten to destroy whatever semblance of normal they have found, Colton and Lilly are forced to face the truth that loving someone, in that all-consuming way, sometimes means that you have to know when to let go and let your love push your better half towards what they need most… even if it’s not you.
I swear, Puddle Jumping is gut-wrenching in its honesty. Most of the other novels I’ve read in this genre focus more about how the person with the condition thinks and feels and sees the world. So it was refreshing to see how this love story unfolded from the perspective of another outsider looking into the life of a person on the spectrum. It made me realize how far people would bend over backwards for the sake of their loved ones. The prologue just about sums it all for me:
When I recommended it to some friends, one of them complained that it felt too bland without much dialogue. I must admit that Puddle Jumping really feels a bit introspective. It’s true that Puddle Jumping has very little dialogue all throughout the novel but I think it only emphasizes Lilly’s own fears of not being able to communicate with Colton in a way that he understands. It kind of gives the reader a first hand experience from Lilly’s point of view how she always has to screen her thoughts and think about every little action so as not to upset Colton's very rigid and particular nature.
But for me, what this book really brings to light is that EVERYONE can get their own happy ending. It may not be in the way that we expected or it may not be at a time we wanted. Puddle Jumping leaves readers with the hope that there’s someone in the world who would understand us and accept us with all our own quirks, someone who would bend over backwards for us... and the fact is, we would not hesitate to do the same for them.
To all you YA/NA readers out there, please go and pick up this book! Puddle Jumping is an absolute must-read for anyone who wants to experience the kind of first love that lasts a lifetime.