Manipulated

A hundred pages in I felt uneasy and decided to give the book I was reading a miss. It was a nice, easy read, and a subject I ought to love. But there was something vaguely uncomfortable about it too.

There are a lot of – mainly American – middle grade books about a young, clueless main character. They might be on the autistic spectrum, or not. The character – usually a boy – is sweet, hardworking, kind, often friendless, with some unusual home circumstances.

I generally like them, but have begun to wonder if they have become clichéd. In a way I suppose you can have them, as well as you have high school romance type books for the slightly older reader. And if you like that kind of thing, more books will be wanted, so perhaps there is no unnecessary glut.

This was the kind of book that comes with dozens of enthusiastic comments at the front. Now that I am jaded and cynical I’ve learned to recognise the people who contribute. It’s every single person working for the publisher, saying in their own words what a truly special story this is.

At first I called my break a pause, reasoning that if curiosity got the better of me I’d return to reading, but I haven’t yet. The bad things that made me stop have grown in my mind, while the charming aspects of the story are almost forgotten.

I’m not usually one to act gate-keeper, but in this instance the ‘bad’ was of such a type that I felt it was potentially going to give a child the wrong idea of what is OK to do. Even if it was with the best intentions. The cynic in me at first feared it would move into child-grooming territory, but I came to the conclusion this would be wrong, and the boy was going to be safe [in that respect].

Most likely it will conclude as a lovely tear-jerker with enough happy ever after for it to work. But I don’t need to be there.

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