The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas | 1 Minute Reviews

Rachael Lucas has written the most absolutely charming book about a teenager with Asperger’s who has a romance storyline. Yes, really.

A little aside here, people with autism are not often the subject of romances. We’re more often the problem child talked about through the eyes of a parent or we’re the weird relative, the best friend.

But not in A State of Grace, and that’s one of the many reasons why I loved it.

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“Sometimes I feel like everyone else was handed a copy of the rules and mine got lost.”

Grace is a fifteen year old girl living in the North-West of England who lives with her younger sister Leah, her mother and – sometimes – her wildlife filmmaker father. But when her father goes off on his latest shoot, things start to feel a little off-kilter.

At the same time, along with the encouragement of best friend Anna, Grace ends up kissing the most desirable boy in school, Gabe Kowalski.

But as things get more unsettled at home with the arrival of mum’s school friend Evil Evie, Grace begins to struggle the changes, be they good or bad.

I absolutely loved this book. Rachael has written a lovely romance in a 1st person narrative that feels real.

But it’s more than that, its deeper. A State of Grace touches on casual ableism, the way autistic people are talked about less to, the way it is often assumed we aren’t taking things in and so are spoken about, the way we are assumed to be desexualised people, not romantic prospects.

Her insight into being an autistic person fills the pages with moments that made me smile and cry – the realities of being autistic, the wonders and the drawbacks. The full colour spectrum of it all.

This is an important book that I must urge everyone to press into the hands of young girls with autism so they can see themselves on the page, but also it is such a wonderful story of growing up that you will love it.

Interested? get it here. I urge you to do so.

What to read next:

Thank you ever so much to My Kinda Book and Pan Macmillan for sending a copy out to me as one of the first Actually Autistic reviewers.

Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan | 1 Minute Reviews

Today, you must all go to your bookshops to get Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan, not least because it’s the prettiest book you’re going to see this year.

My copy from Katie arrived at the shop for me some months back and I just finished it in 24 hours, tear stained and overjoyed and in awe.

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Set in the future in utopian Europa, Carys and Max meet – she an astronaut in training, he an aspiring chef running his family’s food store business. But the book starts much later, as they fall through space with only 90 minutes of oxygen remaining.

Told in flashbacks and real time, Hold Back the Stars is a story of love in a time where romance is forbidden for young people.

The world building is excellent, with Europa existing through a complicated system of moving people about (“Rotation”), in order to discourage romance and to encourage overall cooperation.

The dialogue is biting, witty and completely honest. I loved it.

Interested? Go buy it here.

What to read next:

Thank you again to Katie and Penguin for sending my copy to me.

 

How to Look for a Lost Dog by Ann M. Martin | 1 Minute Reviews

Note: This book carries the title Rain Reign in the USA. 

I knew that I was going to love a book about an autistic girl written by the author of the Baby-Sitter’s Club, but I did not expect how much it would creep into my heart.

Rose loves homophones and prime numbers and her dog Rain, who her father found one night behind the bar he goes to every day. While hiding out during Hurricane Susan, Rose’s father Wesley lets out Rain without putting on her collar and she disappears.

Determined to find her beloved Rain (Reign) again, Rose sets out an action plan of calling Animal Shelters, determined to find her best friend along with the help of her uncle Weldon. Will they find her?

Rose is courageous and brilliant, and her Uncle Weldon is officially the best man.

I’m not going to lie to you – this book is pretty heartbreaking. Ann M. Martin balances an accurate, well researched 1st person autism narrative against the heartache of losing a friend and the background of emotional abuse by her father.

It’s also incredibly beautiful and heartwarming against all the sadness.

Interested? Buy How to Look for a Lost Dog here.

Buy Rain Reign here. <- I LOVE this cover as much as the British version.

What to read next:

Want to know what else I’ve read about autism or features autistic characters? Check out The Essential Autie Book List.

Thank you kindly to Usborne for sending me over How to Look for a Lost Dog. It will stay in my heart for a very long time.

Too Close To Home by Aoife Walsh | 1 Minute Reviews

Too Close to Home is a captivating family saga, as jam-packed with characters as Minny’s home is.

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Minny is a fourteen year old girl living in her Babička’s house with her three siblings Aisling, Selaena and Raymond, and mother Nita, desperately trying to find some space for herself to grow into. When Minny’s father Des returns quite out of the blue after disappearing four years ago, Minny and her sisters must decide how much they are willing to let him back in. Alongside her father’s reappearance, Minny has to face the reappearance of a family friend staying with her Grandmother, her seven year old sister’s devotion to the Bible and her Babička’s new boyfriend, Gil.

Aoife Walsh magnificently fits in extremely complex issues into this single book – divorce, jealousy, lying, mainstream schooling of autistic people, devotion to God, fostering, classism, fatherhood, forgiveness and acceptance, to name a few.

Walsh also provides a sensitive, accurate portrayal of an autistic teenager struggling within a large family and with the social challenges of mainstream schooling in oldest child Aisling. It starts as a slow burn, eventually building into a fast-paced explosive ending.

And now I can’t stop thinking of “life is like a train” metaphors.

Interested? Get it here.

What to read next:

Want to know what else I’ve read about autism or features autistic characters? Check out The Essential Autie Book List.

Thank you kindly to Chloe Sackur at Andersen Press for sending me a copy of Too Close to Home.

Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eager | 1 Minute Reviews

Hour of the Bees blends a Mexican-American family’s experience of dementia with an estranged grandparent, and the possibility of magic.

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When Carol’s grandfather is found to have dementia, the whole family moves to his rural home to begin packing up his life ready to move into the care home. In the intense drought, Carol is not quite sure if the things she is seeing are hallucinations or magic.

My interest was piqued by the bees initially, but I stayed for the whole story which deals with what “home” and otherness really is, alongside human utilitarian view of nature.

A major component of the story is Carol’s struggle with her Mexican ancestry and identity in a white-dominated culture, dropping the “ina”from Carolina and using the anglicised Carol, and how her interactions with her family brings her closer to her cultural roots.

The magic realism is so subtly woven in that it barely feels like it could be beyond our reality.

I absolutely loved this novel, which stands firmly in the middle ground between middle grade and young adult fiction. It is a book that has not gained the buzz (sorry) that it truly deserves.

Interested? Get it here.

What to read next:

Thank to Walker Books for sharing this copy with me.

Women and Girls with Autism Spectrum Disorder : Understanding Life Experiences from Early Childhood to Old Age by Sarah Hendrickx | 1 Minute Reviews

This is an excellent guide on understanding the life experiences of autistic women.

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Sarah Hendrickx collates scientific research with testimonials from girls and woman on their experience of life as an autistic person, highlighting the differences from the classical male autism and the issues particular to female auties.

The book is split into useful sections that talk about issues and experiences faced by autistic people at different stages of their life – infancy, pregnancy, ageing etc.

I found it a very useful in-depth book explaining why and how we experience things the way we do. It is suitable for teenagers and adults, and would be a great resource to share with family members, carers and friends.

Interested? Buy it here.

What to read next:

Want to know what else I’ve read about autism or features autistic characters? Check out The Essential Autie Book List.

Aspergirls by Rudy Simone | 1 Minute Reviews

Aspergirls is one of the first self-help/coping with autism books I read, and actually used it pre-diagnosis to help understand that I was indeed autistic.

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“Aspergirls” is a nickname for girls diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, however in the UK we refer to the DSM V where Asperger’s has now been incorporated into the Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis, likely falling in line with ASD Level 1 (requiring some support).

The chapters are separated clearly into sensible sections – overstimulation, school, romance – and are followed by extremely useful Advice to Aspergirls and Advice to Parents sections. I shared with my parents shortly after to help us all understand that my quirks and needs were universal, and to come up with ways of working with me.

Each section includes a number of testimonials from autistic girls and women talking about their experience of that particular subject in their life and how it affects them, meaning that a wide variety of experiences are covered.

I really enjoyed this book. I found it easy to engage with and it helped me bridge the communication gap between myself and the lovely neurotypicals in my life.

Interested? Buy it here.

What to read next?

Want to know what else I’ve read about autism or features autistic characters? Check out The Essential Autie Book List.