A moving insight into living with autism

anything but typicalTITLE = ANYTHING BUT TYPICAL

AUTHOR = NORA RALEIGH BASKIN

GENRE = MENTAL HEALTH, AUTISM

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9 AND UP

AS the title and the cover of this book suggest, the central character in this book, Jason Blake, is anything but typical. He has been diagnosed with autism and this means he views the world around him in a very different way from his family and his classmates. This novel depicts Jason’s daily struggle to make sense of the world, to try and learn the signs that most of us take for granted: to decipher facial expressions or figures of speech. And if it is a struggle for Jason to understand others it is also a struggle for others to understand Jason. Because when he gets stressed Jason tends to react in a physical way: making noises, clicking his teeth, shaking his hands. Again, this behaviour marks him out as being different from others. So school can be an absolute battle field for Jason: trying to understand and to be understood.

The one place Jason really feels safest is when he is writing stories on the Storyboard site of his computer. Here he can be himself and not worry about how the world sees him. That is until his parents buy him tickets to the Storyboard convention and he realises that the girl he has befriended on Storyboard, might actually meet the real Jason. And past experience tells him that she may not like what she sees. This is a poignant novel which clearly evokes the difficulties faced by both Jason and his family. His parents are loving and supportive but they tend to respond to Jason’s autism in different ways. And as his mother realises, they also have a lot to learn about Jason’s life. A beautiful and gentle novel.

Highly recommended (dma) *****