Monday, May 23, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Anything But Typical

My choice this week is Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin. I am drawn to books about kids who are not "neurotypical," as my eldest has ADD and sometimes struggles with social cues.

Here's the blurb from Goodreads:

Jason Blake is an autistic 12-year-old living in a neurotypical world.Most days it's just a matter of time before something goes wrong. But Jason finds a glimmer of understanding when he comes across PhoenixBird, who posts stories to the same online site as he does.
Jason can be himself when he writes and he thinks that PhoneixBird - her name is Rebecca - could be his first real friend. But as desperate as Jason is to meet her, he's terrified that if they do meet, Rebecca wil only see his autism and not who Jason really is. By acclaimed writer Nora Raleigh Baskin, this is the breathtaking depiction of an autistic boy's struggles-and a story for anyone who has ever worried about fitting in.
My review:

I admire the way Raleigh Baskin enters the interior life of 12-year-old Jason, who is on the autistic spectrum. Jason is a good writer, but his outward mannerisms antagonize most of the people in his life. He starts an online friendship with a GIRL(!!), but is terrified about what will happen when the two of them meet face-to-face. As in all good fiction, there's a roller-coaster of emotion linked to plot, when Jason thinks he's been able to ensure his secret is safe, followed swiftly by his worst nightmare: an actual meeting with PhoenixBird, who loves his writing but won't, he is sure, love the real him.

And Jason is a talented writer and observer about writing. Here are some of his insights: "The most important thing you can do when you are writing a story is to find a dilemma for your character to grapple with... You can make up this whole new world and all these amazing characters, but it's just that in order to make a story, basically, something bad has to happen." (pg. 111)

"Hamilton (the writing instructor) told us that writing is a process. It doesn't always come out right the first time... Like life, he said, but in writing you get to fix it. You get to rewrite. And rewrite and rewrite until you have the exact words you want." (Pgs. 193-4)

This is a touching novel, which will appeal to tender-hearted readers. (I didn't even bother to show it to The Don.) Myself, I'd love to be pointed to other novels with autistic children as MCs. Got any recommendations?

Other fine writers showcasing some middle grade love this week are:

Barbara Watson is highlighting NOWHERE TO CALL HOME. Click HERE to see what she thinks.

-Myrna Foster is spotlighting JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW. Click HERE to read her review.

-Shannon O'Donnell always has fabulous MG love going on at her blog on Mondays. Click HERE to see what she has going on today. 

-Anita Miller is showcasing THE GIRL WHO COULD FLY. Click HERE to learn more about it. 

-Deb Marshall is featuring LOCH & REEF OF DEATH. Click HERE to read her review. 

-Joanne Fritz is highlighting THE FRIENDSHIP DOLL. Click HERE to read her thoughts.

And don't forget the originator of it all: Shannon Messenger. She has Shannon O'Donnell guesting at her blog reviewing James Dashner's 13th REALITY. Read all about it HERE


  1. Thanks! I've added this to my to read this. I can't think of another book like this, will ask my Mixed Up Files buddies and see what they have...

    _Great_ post!

  2. Of course there's Rules by Cynthia Lord but in that the MC is the sister of a child with autism. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime has a MC with an autism spectrum disorder called Aspergers (sure you've heard of it). That has a great voice and illuminates the confusion the MC faces because of his disorder.

    I loved Anything but Typical but I did think it odd that a child with Autism would be so into "storytelling" because usually they don't have great figurative language skills, which can make reading fiction hard. I do kind of love, though, that Raskin threw out the idea that all kids with autism are good at math or science and made her MC good at something else, because it is a heterogeneous disorder. I was thinking about blogging about this book myself so you got me going--yikes this is long!
    Good one.

  3. This sounds like a great one, and I haven't heard of it. So thank you.

    MOCKINGBIRD by Erskine has a girl with Asbergers as the MC. Beautifully written too.

  4. This was a FANTASTIC review, Michael. You have more than convinced me to read this book. Thanks. :-)

  5. Great review. Another book would be Marcelo in the Real World by Franciso Stork was great.

  6. Cool review, Michael. I've seen this book and wondered if it was worth it.

    I second Barbara's suggestion of Mockingbird, which I found very powerful. I also loved Rules, and The Curious Incident, which Kristen mentioned.

    Another one is The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous by Suzanne Crowley, about a girl with Asperger's.

  7. This one sounds fascinating. Thanks for your review!

  8. Tried to comment Monday to suggest MARCELLO IN THE REAL WORLD but couldn't seem to sign in, so now I'll just second Natalie's recommendation. I also liked MOCKINGBIRD, and I think CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT TIME is brilliant (so there, people who think books need to have one-word titles!).

  9. Eye Contact by Cammie McGovern--I really enjoyed it.

  10. I am attempting to fix the glitch about your blog updates Michael, so I added myself again to your follower's list. Just take the "old" me off if you can and let's see if this works :)

  11. Wow, wow, wow, all such great suggestions. I don't believe I've ever read a book with an MC with autism. Will have to check this, and the others, out. Tho Mockingbird has been on my list for a while.


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