A high school student with spinal muscular atrophy is determined to reinvent himself in a hilarious and poignant debut from an exciting new voice.
When fifteen-year-old Harris moves with his family from California (home of beautiful-but-inaccessible beaches) to New Jersey (home of some much-hyped pizza and bagels), he’s determined to be known as more than just the kid in the powered wheelchair. Armed with his favorite getting-to-know-you question (“What’s your favorite color?”), he’ll weed out the incompatible people—the greens and the purples, people who are too close to his own blue to make for good friends—and surround himself with outgoing yellows, adventurous oranges, and even thrilling reds. But first things first: he needs to find a new nurse, stat, so that his mom doesn’t have to keep accompanying him to school.
Enter Miranda, a young nursing student who graduated from Harris’s new high school. Beautiful, confident, and the perfect blend of orange and red, Miranda sees Harris for who he really is—funny, smart, and totally worthy of the affections of Nory Fischer, the cute girl who’s in most of his classes. With Miranda at his side, Harris soon befriends geeky Zander (yellow) and even makes headway with Nory (who stubbornly refuses to reveal her favorite color). But Miranda is fighting her own demons, and Harris starts to wonder if she truly has his best interests at heart.
Chaz Hayden is a debut author who, like his main character, was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy as an infant and spent his childhood in and out of hospitals. The First Thing About You, he says, is “not just about disability but about friendship and love and all the things that a young person hopes to experience.” Through his writing and his YouTube channel, he speaks with abundant positivity and encourages people to “Be different. Leave a trail.” Chaz Hayden grew up in New Jersey and now lives in Pennsylvania, where he spends too much time thinking about his next tattoo and what concerts to attend. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @TheChazHayden.
Debut author Chaz Hayden delivers an engaging coming-of-age tale. . . [this novel is] real and gripping, allowing the reader to experience a no-holds-barred look into the life of a teenager with a life-altering condition.
—School Library Connection (starred review)
Debut author Hayden, who, like Harris, has SMA, writes with humor and compassion that instructs without lecturing. His funny, sarcastic, and smart narrator easily reminds the reader that people with disabilities have amazing abilities and, most important, are people first.
Debut novelist Chaz Hayden offers a fresh perspective on a teen protagonist who longs to feel normal in this humorous, unflinching book. . . . The book’s structure—five sections of varying lengths—beautifully reflects how time in high school can feel like it’s moving at different speeds depending on the situation, and short chapters mimic a fast-paced school day. . . . Fans of John Green or teen rom-coms will enjoy Hayden’s reminder that we are all trying to get others to look beyond our surfaces.
Fifteen-year-old Harris, who has spinal muscular atrophy, seeks to reinvent himself while navigating first love in Hayden’s sincere debut. . . . Via Harris’s wry first-person narration, Hayden, who also has SMA, explores themes of friendship and finding oneself with good humor and authority.
Melding wry wit, awkwardness, and introspection, Harris’ frank narration keeps the pages turning as he grapples with the uncomfortable, conflicting feelings of his romantic dilemma. The ending is a delightful pop of realism. . . . A witty, candid take on love, friendship, belonging, and disability.
Readers will root for Harris as he navigates the highs and lows of high school, family life, and friendships.
—School Library Journal
The First Thing About You is a stellar debut about what does—and doesn’t—define us. It’s about being seen, and truly seeing; an entertaining and moving love note to the search for one’s place in the world. On top of all that, Chaz Hayden writes with the humor and heart of a seasoned storyteller. An instant favorite.
—John Corey Whaley (green), author of National Book Award Finalist Noggin and Michael L. Printz Award winner Where Things Come Back
A cross-country move means a fresh chance in this endearing novel about busting stereotypes.
Clear-eyed and bighearted and laugh-out-loud funny.
—Katie Cotugno (purple), New York Times best-selling author of 99 Days