Friday, June 5, 2009

Book Review: Anything But Typical

Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin. (Grades 4-7.)
Copy provided by my local library.

(This is a 2009 Cybils nominee and this review reflects only my personal opinion of the book, not necessarily the opinion of the panel!)

Twelve-year-old Jason has autism, so the world looks different to him. He doesn't really have any friends because most kids can't see past his disability. They think that if they can't understand you, you must not have anything to say and if you don't express your feelings like they do, you must not have any feelings. All that changes when he meets PhoenixBird on an online writing website. Emails from her are the highlight of Jason's day, but when he gets the chance to meet her at a conference, he must decide if he's brave enough to show her who he really is.

Protagonists with autism, I can name a few. Ted from The London Eye Mystery. Christopher from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Maybe you even want to count Emma Jean who Fell Out of a Tree.

While I enjoyed all the above mentioned books*, none of them put me into the heart of someone with autism quite like Anything But Typical. Jason knows he's different - he processes things differently, he thinks differently, he sees the world differently. But underneath all that, underneath perception and thought processes and what everyone thinks about him, is a twelve-year-old boy who wonders if he'll ever have a girlfriend. A boy who wants to have friends and who loves his family.

I was drawn in quickly by Jason's voice, but it was the following passage that really made me sit up and take notice (and it's really not a novel in verse, it's just that this particular passage happens to look a little like verse):

...Why do people want everyone to act just like they do? Talk like they do. Look like they do. Act like they do.
And if you don't -
If you don't, people make the assumption that you do not
feel what they feel.
And then they make the assumption -
That you must not feel anything at all
. (pg. 14)

Jason's struggle with himself as to whether he's going to meet his online "girlfriend" was interesting, but what I really loved was Jason's relationship with his family. His younger brother looks up to him so much that he requires one of those divided plates because Jason couldn't stand it when his foods touched on the plate. When no one can figure out what's bugging Jason, Jeremy can figure it out.

If you liked The London Eye Mystery or The Curious Incident..., pick up Anything But Typical.

Read more reviews at Ms. Yingling Reads and Readingjunky's Reading Roost. Check out this Guys Lit Wire post on books about autism spectrum disorders and you might also want to read this Q&A with Nora Raleigh Baskin.

*And before you ask, I do have Marcelo in the Real World on my TBR pile! ;)


Bibliovore said...

I've always been interested in autism and the autism spectrum, ever since reading that one Babysitter's Club book that had an autistic child. I really liked what Anything But Typical did, in thrusting us right into Jeremy's head and showing how painful it is for him to deal with the "typical" world. Sigh.

I recommended this to the mother of a boy with Asperger's the other day and she was really happy to hear about it.

Jill said...

I have been wanting to read all of the books listed in this post, so I think I'm going to have to add Anything But Typical to my list too.

Mary Ann Scheuer said...

interesting review - I'm in the middle of listening to Marcelo in the Real World on audio, and am very drawn into this character's perspective. This sounds interesting, and right for middle school. Thanks for a good review!

Sarah Stevenson said...

Great review--I'll be posting it on the Cybils blog tomorrow! And I really enjoyed The Curious Incident... so I definitely want to check this one out.

Ora said...

Hi, I'm a fifth grader, and i absolutely adored this book. It was the best book ever, there's a magazine in my neighborhood (moment magazine), called 'Publish-a-Kid', and no- they dont publish kids :D.
We have to write a report on any book we'de like, i chose this one.I'm in the middle of writing it, but i hope i'll win.

Anonymous said...

I read this book to my fifth grade class. I think that my class learned how to understand people's differences rather than to judge them. It took them into a world that they were not at all familiar with. I am happy that they are developing a greater sense of empathy for others.