Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Finished: June 8, 2009
First Published: Mar. 24, 2009
Genre: YA, realistic fiction
Most people like to talk in their own language.
Reason for Reading: I don't usually read this type of teen fiction but since the theme was autism I was interested. I myself have Asperger's and my 9yo is on the Autistic Spectrum. I received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.
Comments: Jason Blake is 12 years old and is on the Autistic Spectrum, commonly referred to as ASD. He was diagnosed when he was 8 and has many typical symptoms of autism: swaying, flapping, zoning out, meltdowns, social dysfunctions plus he also shows signs of Aspergers: having conversations running continuously in his head, rambling from one topic to another, obsessions and an above average intelligence in creative writing. He finds a "friend" on an online creative writing forum for teens and they start pm-ing each other when he realizes both that they are speaking to each other the way that friends would and that she is a girl. He begins to think of her as a girlfriend. Then one day his parents surprise him with the news that one of them will be taking him to the website's yearly convention and just as he is about to tell his girlfriend, she tells him she is going because it is happening where she lives. This puts an end to Jason's excitement. What will she think when she meets him?
This is a story of self-acceptance. Jason seems to be pretty much self-accepted of himself throughout the book but he perceives the worst opinion of others upon himself all the time. This is the lesson he re-learns to accept about himself. It is also a story of the mother's final acceptance that Jason is not a burden to be shouldered but an example of strength and love that she should try to live up to.
While one could say Jason's autistic symptoms are overexagerated, that would not be fair, as no two autistic people have exactly the same symptoms and a case such as Jason's may very well exist. The author has the inside feelings of an autistic person down to a "T". She has either researched very well or lived with someone on the spectrum herself. While I have not experienced the extremes that her character has neither myself nor with my son, there were parts that hit terribly hard. The point when Jason hears that his friend will be at the convention also. I felt the same thing he did before reading the words that came next. That exact same feeling has happened to me so many times in my life I cannot count.
I definitely recommend this book though not for the publisher's recommended ages. I'm not sure what ten year olds would get out of the book besides just reading about someone different. It would be a great read for teens on the Autism Spectrum so they can relate to what the main character has gone through and for other teens interested in the subject matter. I also recommend the book to adults with any interest in the field of autism as I can personally vouch for the validity of the feelings and inner turmoil portrayed by one with ASD. A rather bittersweet ending but then such is life. Recommended.