Monday, October 19, 2009
Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Veteran writer Baskin takes us inside the mind of an young autistic boy and we get to see the world through his eyes. Anything But Typical is told in first person by 12 year old Jason Blake. Jason's family is made up of his brother, Jeremy, who seems to accept Jason the way he is, his father, who deals with Jason's condition well, and his mom, who believes Jason needs to be "fixed". She seems to try to force normalcy upon Jason. Jason finds he can be himself easily when he writes. He posts his stories on "Storyboard" and makes a connection with a girl who calls herself PhoenixBird. Jason enjoys their online friendship, until his parents sign him up for a writer's conference and he finds out that PhoenixBird will also be attending. He knows how people react to him when they see him and observe his quirky, atypical behaviors. Will PhoenixBird still be his friend after she meets him?
A very fast read and well written. Modern day doctors are still not sure what exactly goes on in the mind of an autistic child. Baskin presents one possible example with Jason; he is very aware of what goes on around him and realizes what people what from him, but is often unable to do what is expected. He knows most people want you to look at them when they speak to you, but Jason explains how people's faces distract him from their spoken words. He hears better when he doesn't see the person who's talking. Jason's inner thoughts about why he does what he does actually make a whole lot of sense. He's a likable character who you'll be cheering for from the beginning.
A definite Newbery contender - it's at the top end of my list.