Currinder’s quiet debut explores the complexities of living with a sibling with disabilities.
High school junior Leo loves his older brother, Caleb, even if he doesn’t always understand him. Caleb has autism, seizures, and unspecified cognitive delays that cause him to process and communicate with the world in ways that Leo does not. As Caleb’s interactions with him become increasingly violent (though seemingly nonmalicious), Leo takes up running as a form of escape, firmly deciding he would rather find his own escape than risk institutionalizing Caleb. When their family decides to move from their St. Louis suburb to a town that will provide more privacy, Leo is excited about the prospect of joining his new school’s cross-country team. The team, it turns out, is made up primarily of undedicated outsiders, with the exception of Curtis, an unusually formal and focused senior who immediately takes Leo under his wing. As Leo juggles his friendship with Curtis and a budding relationship with a female classmate, he also works to balance his home life, struggling with his relationship with Curtis and watching his parents’ relationship rapidly deteriorate. Leo’s first-person narration expresses affection and respect for Caleb, although his lengthy descriptions of training and races tend to drag for readers who are not enthusiastic runners. A late-in-the-book tragedy affirms problematic disability tropes, cheapens what seems otherwise to have been a sensitive depiction of a character with intersecting disabilities, and turns Caleb into a plot device. The primary cast is a white one.
While Leo’s story won’t set any records, the right readers will happily race with him to the finish line. (Fiction. 14-17)