Jason Blake is an autistic twelve-year-old boy in a neurotypical world. Most days, it's just a matter of time before something goes wrong. But Jason finds a glimmer of understanding when he comes across PhoenixBird, who posts stories to the same online site as he does. Jason can be himself when he writes, and he thinks that PhoenixBird--her name is Rebecca--could be his first real friend. As desperate as Jason is to meet her, he's terrified that if they do meet, Rebecca will only see his autism and not who Jason really is. By acclaimed writer Nora Raleigh Baskin, this breathtaking depiction of an autistic boy's struggles--and a story for anyone who has ever worried about fitting in.
I really appreciate stories that get inside the heads of non-neurotypical people (see also, Marcelo in the Real World). But I also wonder, how do the authors get this information? A lot of her descriptions, of Jason feeling like his head is floating, and especially of his painfully logical interactions with others, feel very true. But every once in a while Jason says he doesn't remember how he got to such a place or how something bad happened. Maybe that is how autism works, but it seemed out of place when normally he over-processes every stimuli.
Okay, that was a whole lot of nitpicking. Basically, this book is very good. It's heartbreaking to see Jason lovingly describe his family members and show his love to them, but then watch his mother misinterpret what he is doing as disinterest. His relationship online with Rebecca was agonizing, because just like Jason, the reader anticipates/dreads their inevitable meeting. I was very pleased with what resulted, though. Not too schmaltzy, not too pessimistic.
In the end, Jason realizes that he is fine the way he is. He will always have to work harder at fitting in than neurotypicals. But he accepts that and chooses to go on.
Also, he is a fabulous writer. I kind of want Bennu's story to be a real book! The part after the surgery when he is different but his face is the same!? Oh my word, the emotion. C'mon Baskin, write that story!
Four out of five Storyboard Conventions.
Release Date: March 2010
Reading Level: Grade 4+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: CAUDILL