Top 5 Wednesdays: Neurodiverse Characters (In Honour of International Brain Awareness Week)

Continuing my theme of monthly special days and holidays, I decided to focus on a week-long observance rather than a specific day. It’s been really surprising to look ahead at the coming months and see just how many special days there are. I was especially surprised to see the number of week-long observances. I still find the majority of these holidays and celebrations pretty random and a bit weird in general to celebrate, but some of them are really interesting. I learned that the second week of March is considered International Brain Awareness Week, which is a global campaign to increase awareness of brain research. As someone who studied psychology and currently works with people with autism as well as other developmental disabilities and/or mental health conditions, it seemed very relevant to me. It is definitely not a campaign that I had ever really heard about before, but I fully support the idea of promoting researching the brain. To fit this week’s theme, I decided to focus on five books on my TBR that have neurodiverse characters, specifically characters on the autism spectrum.

Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.

1) The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

39338454. sy475 This is easily the book that I’m most excited for on this list, and the only one that I am actively planning to read this year. This book is a companion novel/sequel to The Kiss Quotient, focusing on a character named Khai, who is the cousin of one of the characters in the first book. Khai is on the autism spectrum, and his mother decides to take it into her own hands to find him a wife despite his lack of interest in relationships. Khai’s mother travels to Vietnam to find him a bride, and returns with a woman named Esme, who sees this marriage as an opportunity to have a better life. This book is own voices since the author is both autistic and Vietnamese herself, and I thought the autism representation in The Kiss Quotient was very well-done (although I do not have autism myself). I’ve seen so many excellent reviews for this one by many of the reviewers I follow, so I’m very excited to give it a try. I also love that Helen Hoang is writing romance books that feature relationships that are a bit different from what is typically portrayed in the genre, and I’m really looking forward to reading more.

2) On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

22020598This book has been on my TBR for way too long already! I think the only reason I keep putting it off is because it is sci-fi and that is not a genre that I reach for too often, although I do tend to enjoy the sci-fi books that I have read. This book is about a girl named Denise who has autism, and she and her family have been assigned a temporary shelter to avoid an incoming comet. While searching for her sister to make sure they arrive at the shelter in time, a chance encounter opens up a new possibility for Denise to have a place on a ship that will leave to colonize new worlds. However, passengers must have a practical skill that they can contribute in order to be considered for this ship, and Denise worries that she will not be allowed to stay, and even if she does, it does not guarantee a place for her mother and sister. Given that Corinne Duyvis is credited as the creator of #ownvoices, it is no surprise that this book is an own voices novel for the autism representation. Although I have seen a few reviews mentioning that this book is a bit too slow-paced, it sounds like a very intriguing story and I’m especially interested in the focus on Denise’s concerns about bringing a “valuable” skill to the team. As someone who works in a program that emphasizes opportunities for adults with autism/developmental disabilities to contribute and be valued in the community for their abilities, this one seems especially relevant to me.

3) A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart

28220983I bought a copy of this one from Book Outlet after seeing that it involved both autism and Minecraft, which are two interests of mine. This one is about a father named Alex who has difficulty connecting with his son, Sam, who is 8 years old and has autism. When Sam starts to play Minecraft, it opens up a new way for the father and son to connect. It reminds me of a movie I saw a few years ago called Life, Animated which was about a father who connected to his son with autism through Disney movies. It is also a book, although so far I have only seen the movie version. Upon doing a bit of research, I found that Keith Stuart himself is a father of a young son with autism, and he also found PlayStation games were a way to bond with his son. I think this is such an interesting story and it could open up so many new ideas and approaches to connecting with individuals who have autism. I’m also very interested to see how Minecraft is incorporated into the story because I’ve never really seen it mentioned in detail in books before and I’m curious to see how such a visual game will be represented on the page.

4) Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik

30971706. sy475 To be honest, I’d forgotten that I even had this book on my TBR, but it came up relatively quickly when I searched for books from the past few years that featured a character with autism. This book is about a popular high school student named Chloe whose older sister Ivy is on the autism spectrum. Chloe decides that her sister should have a boyfriend, and attempts to set her up with Ethan, another boy from Ivy’s special needs class at school. Although Chloe would prefer to avoid Ethan’s brother, she can’t because the two of them end up chaperoning their siblings’ dates since Ivy and Ethan are not comfortable going out alone. I do not know much about this author, but I have seen this book tagged as own voices as well. What especially intrigues me about this one is that there is some focus on the experiences of siblings of the individuals with autism. This is a perspective that is often underrepresented, even in research and it is such an important one! When I was in university and college, I did two major research papers about the experiences of siblings and other family members of individuals with disabilities and it was so interesting. I’ve rarely seen YA books with this perspective, and I’m very excited to see how it is represented.

5) When My Heart Joins the Thousand by A.J. Steiger

35098416This book first caught my eye because of the beautiful cover art, but the synopsis was the real selling point for me.  It is about a teenage girl named Alvie who has Asperger’s syndrome, although that term is no longer used,  and is determined to prove to the world that she can take care of herself, and hopes to be legally emancipated from her foster parents when she turns 18. When she meets a boy named Stanley who walks with a cane and has a condition that causes him to break bones easily, she soon finds herself feeling closer to him than she has to anyone in a long time. For some reason, it feels like a very difficult book to summarize because it touches on so many different topics, but I’m intrigued by this one because I’ve heard that it does a lot to tackle misconceptions and negative attitudes about autism, and also because of the emphasis on independence and adulthood/future planning. This is another topic that I think is very important and it is also one that is relevant to me on a daily basis at work, so I’m very excited to see it featured in YA.



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