Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Middle-Grade Review: Anything But Typical

Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin is anything but a typical middle-grade novel.  Its narrator, 12-year old Jason, is autistic, and he tells his story from his own unique point of view, providing both an interesting story as well as fascinating insights into what it’s like to be autistic in a world filled with “normal” people, as in this scene at school:

Neurotypicals like it when you look them in the eye.  It is supposed to mean you are listening, as if the reverse were true, which it is not: Just because you are not looking at someone does not mean you are not listening.  I can listen better when I am not distracted by a person’s face.

What are their eyes saying?
Is that a frown or a smile?
Why are they wrinkling their forehead or lifting their cheeks like that?  What does that mean?

How can you listen to all those words when you have to think about all that stuff?

But I know I will get in trouble if I don’t look at the lady’s eyes.  I can force myself.  I turn my head, but I will look at her sideways.

I know the right words to use.

Last year, Jane, my one-on-one, taught me to say, “I am okay just as I am.”

I am okay just as I am.

She told me I had to say something in this sort of situation.  She said that people expect certain things.  She said that people will misunderstand me if I don’t say anything.

This is one of the many, many things I need to run through in my mind, every time.

Jason is intelligent and caring but, as you can see in that scene, has a hard time interacting with people in the ways that they normally expect.  But there’s one place where Jason feels completely comfortable – online at his favorite website, Storyboard.  Jason loves to write stories and post them on Storyboard, and he’s quite good at it, too. 

Another Storyboard member, Phoenixbird, enjoys Jason’s stories and leaves comments on his latest one. Jason and Phoenixbird get to know each other online, where they each admire the other’s writing, and Jason thinks he may have his first-ever real friend.  An opportunity comes up for them to meet in person, but Jason is afraid that Phoenixbird (whose real name is Rebecca) won’t like him anymore when she sees that he is autistic.  The novel alternates between Jason’s real life and updates to the story he’s posting on Storyboard.

I was captivated by Jason’s unique perspective and the chance to view life from an autistic person’s point of view.  For instance, I always thought people with autism didn’t feel emotions normally, but it is clear from Jason’s story that he feels plenty; he just doesn’t know how to express those feelings. I really enjoyed this warm and insightful book that contains some interesting plot twists and surprises.

195 pages, Simon & Schuster


Elise said...

I've read a couple of other reviews for this book, it sounds really good :)

Unknown said...

i love this book