April was Autism Awareness Month. Even though it’s May, there’s no reason why we can’t highlight books written by (#ownvoices) and about characters with autism and other spectrum disorders. Here’s a sampling of some titles for a range of YA readers.
Younger YA/Middle School
Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Jason Blake, an autistic 12-year-old living in a neurotypical world, 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 PhoneixBird-her name is Rebecca-could be his first real friend. But as desperate as Jason is to met her, he’s terrified that if they do meet, Rebecca will only see his autism and not who Jason really is. Winner of the 2010 Schneider Family Book Award.
Rogue by Lyn Miller-Lachmann
Kiara has Asperger’s syndrome, and find it hard to make friends. Feeling misunderstood, she turns to “Mr. Internet” for answers and looks to her hero, Rogue from the X-Men, as a role model. When a new boy moves in across the street, Kiara hopes that, for once, she’ll be able to make friendship stick. When she learns his secret, she’s so determined to keep Chad as a friend that she agrees not to tell. But being a true friend is more complicated than Mr. Internet could ever explain, and it might be just the thing that leads Kiara to find her own special power. Like Kiara, Miller-Lachmann has Asperger’s Syndrome.
Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery
When Temple Grandin was born, her parents knew she was different. Years later she was diagnosed with autism. Temple’s doctor recommended institutionalizing her, but her mother believed in her. Temple went to school instead. Today, Dr. Temple Grandin, a scientist and professor of animal science at Colorado State University, is an autism advocate and her world-changing career revolutionized the livestock industry. This compelling biography and Temple’s personal photos take us inside her extraordinary mind and open the door to a broader understanding of autism.
Mindblind by Jennifer Roy
Fourteen-year-old Nathaniel Clark lives in two worlds—the outside world of his family and friends and his own, special, inside Aspie world, where he’s not forced to interact with people or worry about wearing his clothes right-side out. Nathaniel read that true geniuses must make a contribution to the world, and he sets out to do just that. Nathan’s character was inspired by Roy’s own autistic son.
High School/Older YA
Wild Orchid by Beverly Brenna
Eighteen-year-old Taylor Jane Simon, sheltered most of her life because of an autistic condition, sees new possibilities opening up for her when she goes to spend the summer in Prince Albert National Park where her mother has taken a job working in a pizza restaurant. (The third book in the Taylor Jane Simon trilogy, White Bicycle, was a 2013 Michael L. Printz Honor book.
Episodes: Scenes From Life, Love, and Autism (hardcover edition titled Episodes: My Life As I See It) by Blaze Ginsburg
Blaze Ginsberg offers a unique perspective on his life as a highly functioning autistic twenty-one-year-old. Inspired by the format of the Internet Movie Database, Blaze organizes his life events as a collection of episodes. Some episodes are still running, some are in syndication, and some have sadly come to an end. With an innovative style and approach that is all its own, Episodes reinvents the traditional memoir; and it will inspire young readers to see the world as they’ve never seen it before.
Colin Fischer by Ashley Edward Miller
Colin Fischer cannot stand to be touched. He does not like the color blue. He needs index cards to recognize facial expressions. When a gun is found in the school cafeteria, Colin decides It’s up to him to prove that the school bully is innocent and solve the case, Sherlock Holmes-style.
Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
Marcelo Sandoval hears music that nobody else can hear — part of an autism-like condition that no doctor has been able to identify. But his father has never fully believed in the music or Marcelo’s differences, and he challenges Marcelo to work in the mailroom of his law firm for the summer . . . to join “the real world.” There Marcelo meets Jasmine, his beautiful and surprising coworker, and Wendell, the son of another partner in the firm. He learns about competition and jealousy, anger and desire. But it’s a picture he finds in a file a picture of a girl with half a face that truly connects him with the real world: its suffering, its injustice, and what he can do to fight.