So okay. I am significantly late posting my April book review, because I was significantly late finishing my April book, because I didn’t get it recc’d until late in the month, then finding it, then I was finishing my final projects for school. But here goes.
I really, really liked this book. It was exactly what I was looking for in a book with an autistic protagonist: one, about a girl, because I’m a literary misandrist and have a much easier time reading about girls, two, not grimdark, three, not only about the character’s autism and how it makes them Different. Because here’s the thing. That’s true, autistic and allistic people are different in some pretty fundamental ways, but when the narrative is centered around that difference and nothing else, an us vs. them mentality is created, and that’s ultimately damaging and incorrect.
I’ve been reading about autism in the last couple of years, just information-wise. A lot of this is to do with my drift partner, but a lot of it eventually also had to do with a sense of oh that all makes sense to me now about myself. The most official thing I’ve had said is I have “autism-flavored OCD” but whatever, there are days when that flavor feels really pervasive. Isn’t that the silliest way of putting it? Basically, I’m too adaptable and good at pretending things for a DSM-V diagnosis, and yeah, that makes sense, in part because the DSM-V is imperfect, but there’s something there, somewhere.
Anyway. That was personal and confessional and I debated not including it at all, but also it’s important to explaining why I loved this book so absolutely much. For starters, this book wins the diversity lottery. I won’t list off every single instance, but Denise, the autistic teenage protagonist, is half-Surinamese, half-Dutch. This book is set in Amsterdam, which makes it in my opinion more interesting than the 20,000th apocalypse setting in New York or something. Nothing against New York, but.
Yeah. This is an apocalypse book. Denise and her mom have to find shelter before a comet hits the Earth and after that find her sister before the shelter, a ship, goes into space. There’s destruction and injury and death. There’s unpleasant imagery that could be triggering. But, as I said above, this book is not grimdark!
Here’s another cool thing: the a-word isn’t even used until something like 40 pages in. It’s on the book jacket, but still. The reader has a chance to get to know Denise, her preferences and habits and interests, without the label being constantly thrown around. Aspects of her autism are discussed: her special interest (cats), her history of behavior problems and problematic stims, how difficult it was to get her diagnosed because girls aren’t as easily diagnosed (true), how difficult it is to cope with things like interacting with others sometimes. She gets a job on board the ship helping relay information to everyone’s tabs (which seem to be like touchscreen projection watches) and revels in organizing and reorganizing it, proofing it and editing it and making it right, and I wanted to shriek with joy because I feel the same way about information that’s why I’m being a librarian.
She gets upset about keeping relationships (her mother and sister) and making them too (her mentor, her eventual friends on board – one of whom she finds cute, but doesn’t ultimately romance with) and about the overwhelming nature and facts of the apocalypse, but she continually proves how valuable she is on the usefulness-based ship (at one point so much so that someone suggests she isn’t even autistic because autistic people can’t do that, which made me go hmmm) and what’s more, she makes people think about things they might not because she sees things the way others might not. And she’s likable! She’s easy to understand and I think even an allistic person would be able to relate to her at least some of the time.
Also, Corinne Duyvis, the author, is autistic herself. So that’s helpful. It’s not stilted or pandering and that’s what I was afraid of. Over-researched, un-genuine storytelling. I don’t know, I guess what I’m getting at is this was just a very successful read for me.
–your fangirl heroine.