Thursday, August 27, 2009

Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin, as reviewed by Atlas

I almost hesitate to review this book, because EVERYONE is going to review it (if they haven't already), and EVERYONE is going to love it, and I will just be one more set of applauding flippers in the crowd. But, just in case we have one loyal reader who doesn't look anywhere else, I'll give it a go.

Synopsis in brief, Jason Blake is a 12-year-old boy with autism. Most people see exactly just that when they meet him. Communicating in person is difficult for Jason. He has difficulty expressing what he means in ways "neurotypical" people will understand, and he often does not "get" the expressions and nuances they use in their speech. Then, of course, there are the stereotypical traits involving eye focus, posture, and hand flapping that cause that glazed look to come over people's face just before they make an excuse to end the conversation.

Please don't think Jason is a stereotyped character, though. From the first page he is very real and unique, and Baskin does a fantastic job of pulling us into Jason's world so that we feel every high and low along with him. While communicating in person is a challenge, Jason has no such problem online. He writes wonderful stories which he posts to an online forum. There he makes contact with a teenage girl who has no idea there is anything 'different' about him. Could she become a real friend? Even something more?

The other characters are equally well-drawn. While we don't get the same insight into their thoughts and emotions as we do Jason's, it is easy to picture and perhaps identify with the mother who is struggling to 'fix' her child, the more laid-back father who struggles in his own way to understand his son, the little brother who probably sees and accepts Jason more clearly than anyone else, and yes, even those who aren't as kind to or as tolerant of someone who does not fit into their little mold.

I was exhausted but satisfied after reading this book, and immediately recommended it to a dozen or so people. Anyone who works with children should read it. Anyone who knows anyone in the autism spectrum should read it. Anyone who might ever meet someone in the spectrum should read it. Anyone who is in the spectrum themselves should read it. Did I somehow leave you out? Read it anyway. I learned so much and enjoyed the whole painful, happy ride. If nothing else, I will never force a child to look at me while I am talking to him again! This is a must-have for every library, and would make great required reading for education, psychology, and social services students in colleges. Follow the link below and order a copy for yourself:

For more information about autism spectrum disorders, check out these web sites:

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