A girl with autism confronts the terrors of sixth grade.
Eleven-year-old Tally is fierce, brave, funny, and kind; but she also wants desperately to fit in, so she keeps her autism secret from her new classmates at Kingswood Academy. But the harder she tries to act “normal,” the more the bullies call her “weirdo” until even her friends start to pull away. Tally’s story—based on Scott (herself 11 and autistic) and co-written with the neurotypical Westcott—shines with authenticity. Even the lengthy “Autism Facts” in Tally’s interspersed diary entries avoid didacticism via their un-self-conscious honesty. The deceptively simple prose sticks tightly to Tally’s point of view, conveying her courage and quirky charm while rendering with painful acuity her struggles with anxiety and sensory overload. It also portrays compassionately the sometimes-stressful effects of her particular needs and odd-seeming behaviors on her loving, supportive family. There are no villains here: Her teachers are (mostly) receptive and sympathetic, and even the bullies come off as more clueless than cruel. Nor is there any magic resolution: Tally’s situation may improve but only at the cost of her privacy; and her social relationships remain tentative. Instead, her triumph comes in her resolve to present as her own unique, different “normal.”
Recommended for readers with autism who will feel genuinely seen and for those desiring to see others more clearly. (Fiction. 9-12)