Frank loves number patterns, ciphers, and soccer, but his relationship with his younger brother, Max, doesn’t fit into any logical category.
Frank is 10, and his fascination with codes and numerical sequences is challenged by the unpredictability of Max’s autism. Frank is counting down the days until Max can start his new school, but his focus on the difficulties of life with his brother takes a back seat when true tragedy strikes the family and Frank begins a countdown of another kind. Leaving childhood innocence far too soon, Frank is supported by his two best friends, his loving family, an empathetic neighbor, and a teacher who understands the temptation to hide what is hurtful from the outside world. Balen’s debut novel draws from her own experiences in a school for children with special challenges, and she balances the struggles of those with autism and those who love them in a book with an achingly huggable main character. The story, narrated by Frank, rings true as the author resists any temptation to make Frank more praiseworthy or more adult than he would be. The inclusion of the golden ratio, Morse code, occasional free verse poetry, and thoughtful changes in typeset add to an already admirable book. The tale is set in contemporary England; the main characters are presumed white; Frank’s friend Ahmed’s family is from Bangladesh.
The mysteries of the universe, the complexities of life, and a protagonist readers will fall in love with. (Fiction. 10-14)