Following a move to a new town, Alice’s Asperger’s syndrome is making middle school very challenging, but Megan, a classmate with her own serious issues, may just prove to be a friend.
Alice’s dad has chosen not to mention her Asperger’s to her teachers. She’s doing her best to be normal, as described in her matter-of-fact voice, but her highly literal interpretation of everything makes that hard, and frequent meltdowns result. Megan, who’s being abused by her stepfather, needs a friend just as badly as Alice does, but it generally seems that she’s providing much more support to Alice than she’s getting back. That finally changes when Megan runs away to Vancouver and Alice goes after her, following advice she read about Internet safety: “Be a good friend. Help keep your friends safe.” She has memorized all the words in the dictionary up to “mineralize,” and these definitions provide a poignant guide to navigating a confusing world. Her difficulties, along with her steadfast courage, are effectively depicted, but sometimes the severity of her disability makes her developing friendship with Megan seem improbable. Still, the happy outcome of their connection, as Alice describes a “tingling, bubbling feeling” in her body when their friendship is cemented, makes the journey worthwhile.
Insightful and sometimes moving, Alice’s evolving coming-of-age provides a perceptive exploration of unexpected friendship in the face of disability. (Fiction. 10-14)