On the Bright Side by Anna Sortino Book Review

On the Bright Side by Anna Sortino Book Review

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On the Bright Side by Anna Sortino is a great coming of age story with romance and an exploration of disabilities. It follows two teens–one who is making the transition from a deaf school to a hearing school and another that is learning to accept a new disability.


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On the Bright Side

Author: Anna Sortino

Narrator: Jesse Inocalla & Elizabeth Robbins 

Pub. Date: July 2, 2024

Genre: YA Contemporary Romance

Pages: 8 hours / 320 pages 

Rating: 4 stars

Spice: 1 heart

Content Warnings: ableism, vomit, & illness


Ellie’s Deaf boarding school just shut down, forcing her to leave the place she considered home and return to her hearing family. But being mainstreamed into public school isn’t exactly easy. So her guidance counselor pairs her with Jackson, a student who’s supposed to help her adjust. Can the boy who tries to say the right things, and gets it all wrong, be the lifeline Ellie needs?

Jackson has been avoiding his teammates ever since some numbness in his legs cost them an important soccer match. With his senior year off to a lonely start, he’s intrigued when he’s asked to help the new girl, initially thinking it will be a commendable move on his part. Little does he know Ellie will soon be the person he wants most by his side when the strange symptoms he’s experiencing amount to a life-changing diagnosis.

Exploring what it means to build community, Anna Sortino pens a story about the fear of the unknown and the beauty of the unexpected, all wrapped up in a poignant romance that will break your heart and put it back together again.


Book Review

Thank you to PRH Audio for the ALC and Penguin Teen for the ARC of On the Bright Side by Anna Sortino. All opinions are my own.

As an adult, I am not the target audience for this book, but I do think I still got a lot out of this book. If I had read it as a teenager, I might have loved it more though.



I really appreciated the dual points of view in this story because Ellie and Jackson had such different upbringings and situations they were going through. I think I enjoyed reading from Jackson’s POV a little more though because he was just so sweet and likable.

I didn’t dislike Ellie, but I found her a bit irritating at the beginning of the story. She acted as if everyone was against her without even knowing people very well. I do think she grew as a character throughout the story though.

Ellie’s family was terrible, and I felt bad for the lack of support she received at home. No one should ever feel lesser than because of their disabilities.

Jackson’s parents were a little better, but I hated how they kept dismissing Jackson’s health problems. It did such a disservice to him, and it made it feel like they didn’t know their son at all.

I appreciated the friendship between Ellie and Jackson. I liked that they didn’t let other’s opinions affect their opinions of each other. Even though they had such different lives, I think they really complemented each other.

In the past, I’ve read several other books with deaf protagonists. While there are definitely similarities to those books, I liked the author’s approach in this story and how she talked about disabilities as a whole. The stigma associated with various disabilities was discussed, and I found it interesting to read about someone who was new to their disability versus someone who was used to it.

I listened to the audiobook version of this book and really enjoyed the narration. I also appreciated the sound effects that denoted when a character was signing versus speaking verbally.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys YA contemporary stories.


Where to Read & Purchase

You can purchase a copy of this book at the following retailers:

Bookshop.org (supports independent book stores) [affiliate]

Libro.fm (audiobooks that support independent book stores) [affiliate]

get a free audiobook when you start a membership

Amazon [affiliate]

Books a Million (BAM) [affiliate]

AbeBooks [affiliate]

Barnes & Noble


Have you read On the Bright Side or any other books by Anna Sortino?

I would love to hear your thoughts! Comment down below.


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