Category Archives: Autism/Asperger Syndrome

Kid Got Shot

Oh, Garvie Smith how I love you! (At least from a distance. Your mum loves you too, but I think we are both a bit exasperated by now.)

Simon Mason, Kid Got Shot

Simon Mason’s Sherlock/Cumberbatch crime-solving hero is back with another school murder mystery. It is still the exam period, so the deaths at Garvie’s school are coming hard and fast. And how could anyone sit exams, or revise for them, when there is a death to investigate?

Not Garvie. He sacrifices most of his GCSE exams for this unknown boy with Asperger Syndrome who has just been found shot. Pyotor was ‘known’ to everyone, while still not known by anyone, because he didn’t socialise or even talk to people at school. So how come this stickler for routine who spoke to no one was found dead in the middle of the night, close to a well known criminal?

Well, Garvie just has to find out. His old police pal DI Singh, who is in disgrace after ‘working’ with Garvie on the last murder, is the one who discovers the body, and this time the two do talk rather more easily, but poor Singh isn’t getting on too well with his colleagues.

Grown-ups are often stupid and can’t see what this lazy teen genius is doing (other than missing or failing his exams), but the reader knows Garvie will get there in the end.

Don’t miss this perfectly written, light but serious, and occasionally humorous crime novel. It’s the kind of book YA was invented for.

The State of Grace

It is – or ought to be – a well known fact that girls ‘hide’ their autism rather more successfully than boys do. This new book, The State of Grace, is about one such struggling girl, and as Rachael Lucas who wrote it is on the spectrum herself and also has a daughter with Asperger Syndrome, you can be sure she will get it right. Well, one right of many.

The story about 16-year-old Grace is full of neurotypical thoughts and behaviours. More than I’d have expected. But then, that is one kind of reality among many different kinds of aspie realities. It’s just not mine.

Rachael Lucas, The State of Grace

Grace has a younger sister who is very ‘normal’ and a mother who is pretty perfect as the mother of an aspie, standing up for her girl at school and knowing what she needs. That is, until she seems to stop being like that. Grace’s father is working away and no doubt it is tough for his wife, but I found the sudden change in parental support rather hard to deal with. As did Grace.

There is an almost too good to be true best friend for Grace, and when the two girls attend a birthday party it is just as difficult for Grace to cope with as you’d expect, but she also ends up kissing the most fanciable boy at their school, and is no stranger to giving her friend a full account of what happened.

But this is me nit-picking. When life gets tough, Grace escapes off to her horse Mabel, and she makes quite a few stupid decisions. One is working out how to be a popular girl and setting in motion some less well thought out ideas.

I’d like to think that in ‘real’ life Grace’s mother would have come to her senses sooner, and maybe the romantic interest wouldn’t have been the most good-looking boy around. But this is a fun story, it has lots of situations other aspies should be able to recognise, and there is a learning curve for all the characters.

We need more aspie books, and more girl aspie books, and especially ones like this one where it’s not all computers and robotic behaviour. And you just can’t go wrong with a Doctor Who t-shirt.

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.

The Roman Quests – The Archers of Isca

It is reassuring that I am not yet too old for Caroline Lawrence’s books. Occasionally I wonder if I will be, seeing as I’ve been reading her Roman mysteries for well over a dozen years. But I am still a child at heart.

Caroline Lawrence, The Roman Quests - The Archers of Isca

The second of four books set in Britain in AD 95, we follow the eldest boy, Fronto, as he sets off to be a soldier. It’s what he always wanted, albeit perhaps not quite like this. In Rome he could have been an officer, while now he must begin at the bottom. But for a boy who likes rules and knowing what’s happening and what he should do about it, army life is perfect.

Meanwhile, his two younger siblings continue as they were, living with the local people. At least, until Fronto’s little sister Ursula is kidnapped.

As with all Caroline’s books, this story educates as it entertains. I have learned more about life in Roman Britain through these books than I ever did from more historical texts. What’s more, I suspect I might remember facts for longer as well.

There are Druids and Romans, we learn about Roman baths and Boudica’s famous battle, and we find out how people lived; what they ate and how they worked and prayed.

And we are getting closer to knowing what happened to Miriam’s twin boys.

Car Wash Wish

Isn’t this just a fantastic book title? It makes me want to go round muttering those three words to myself, trying to avoid twisting my tongue with the wash wish thing.

Sita Brahmachari has written another great book for Barrington Stoke, and this time it’s a nicely timed autism story, for National Autism Awareness Month.

Sita Brahmachari, Car Wash Wish

14-year-old Hudson is an aspie, and his dad is one as well, which is why Hudson now lives with his mum and stepdad and his unborn half-sibling, currently going by the name of Zygote. Hudson likes the letter Z. A lot.

To make matters worse, his dad’s dad has died and there is a funeral to go to, to dress for. His mum always felt that her late father-in-law, who had Alzheimer’s, took up all her husband’s attention, which is why they split up.

Hudson just wants to understand the world, and to be with his dad, as well as with his mum, and Zygote, with whom he chats by himself in order to introduce their family.

There is a car wash in his dad’s past, and the importance of this becomes evident as you read the book. That’s the car wash wish.

Lovely.

Faraday and the aspies

I like it when people contact me about new books (or old, for that matter) because they know something about me, or have looked me up, and they are aware that I have special interests.

So no, I don’t think I’ll collaborate on a blog tour for a violent, adult thriller just now, thank you. Especially as I’ve never heard of you before. Or read your book.

In the last few weeks I’ve been approached by someone about a novel with a minor character who is an aspie. Except the aspieness has – apparently – nothing to do with the plot. The description of the book was rather lengthy, but I think that it’s an adult novel, which just happens to have an aspie character.

And then there was the – also rather lengthy – description of what I believe might be a children’s reference book. It was based on something to do with Michael Faraday, and again, I’d like to think that they contacted me for a reason. Except they didn’t mention this. So perhaps they didn’t know, and I was one of thousands they approached.

I tried not to mind the spelling errors. But when their return email address was so obviously wrong, you begin to wonder. Whereas I was actually quite tempted this time, I decided I couldn’t reply.

The Exclusion Wars

The Exclusion Wars by Sheila Agnew is a dystopia set in New York in about ten years’ time, and one which is looking increasingly likely. Many such stories feel as if they would require considerably longer before they might happen, but this one features a Trump-like President with a hatred for one group of the population; the Latinos.

Sheila Agnew, The Exclusion Wars

The novel is self-published because all the publishers Sheila approached a couple of years ago felt that the scenario was far too unlikely…

The main character is teenager Mateo Rivera, aka Matthew Rivers, who is alone after his mother escaped to Alaska, the only safe place for Latinos to go. He is looked after by the Underground, whose goal is to restore Latinos in the community, while helping people to disappear safely, or to live in disguise.

There are government agents everywhere, equipped with ‘fake’ dogs, and there are inspections in schools to find children who are pretending not to be Latino. One way to trick people to give themselves away is seeing if they speak Spanish, when caught unawares.

Matthew himself joins the Underground as a minor agent, and along with his best friend he runs messages between the adults. We don’t see so much of President Trent, but the schools inspector is a pretty terrifying man, who is quite hands-on with the searching.

This plot could be true almost anywhere, with almost any group of people as the unwanted ones. If you stop and think for a few seconds, you can probably come up with some. Maybe not as totalitarian as this set-up, but we’re not far from it in places.

It’s a shame the book couldn’t find a mainstream publisher. As you know, I often wonder what they are thinking a lot of the time. Sheila did the kind of thing I could see myself doing; she sent her book to Eoin Colfer, who liked it.