Saturday, November 5, 2016
Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Author: Nora Raleigh Baskin
Format: Novel (middle grade)
Length: 195 pages
Jason Blake is a 12 year old autistic boy. He struggles to fit in with his neurotypical classmates, but has more success interacting on a website called Storyboard, where he writes short stories and talks to other young writers. There, he meets a girl named PhoenixBird, who he thinks of as his girlfriend, but when the chance to meet her in person comes along, he panics.
I picked this book up because it is written from an autistic perspective and seemed to make use of the concept of neurodiversity (the idea that autistic people just have a different sort of brain rather than having something wrong with them). Different perspectives are present in the book: Jason's dad is an accepting, understanding parent, who sometimes struggles but ultimately accepts Jason as he is. His mom is another story, having a lot of difficulty understanding her son and interacting with him in a way that works for him. Jason himself is sort of in between, uncertain at times whether or not he would choose to be neurotypical if he could.
I would have liked to see more of a transformation in how the characters came to view autism by the end of the story. I found it to be pretty subtle. But there is a positive message in there and overall I still enjoyed the story and was rooting for Jason all the way.
This book is good for middle grade readers. I think autistic kids and teens may enjoy the relatable character, and neurotypicals who have autistic friends or family members could gain some insight from Jason's narrative.