From the author of Epic Fail comes the story of Chloe Mitchell, a Los Angeles girl on a quest to find love for her autistic sister, Ivy. Ethan, from Ivy’s class, seems like the perfect match. It’s unfortunate that his older brother, David, is one of Chloe’s least favorite people, but Chloe can deal, especially when she realizes that David is just as devoted to Ethan as she is to Ivy.
Uncommonly honest and refreshingly funny, this is a story about sisterhood, autism, and first love. Chloe, Ivy, David, and Ethan, who form a quirky and lovable circle, will steal readers’ hearts and remind us all that it’s okay to be a different kind of normal.
***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & HMH Books for Young Readers
I’ve read a ton of books lately that I’ve loved, but this is the first book in maybe years that I can honestly say I’m grateful for. There are so many beautiful things that happen in this book and they’re done so well that you might not even notice until it hits like an epiphany and the biggest of those things is spreading awareness. People make assumptions and judgments about what autism is, how those who have it should function (or not) in society, and say offhand comments that are both offensive and ignorant. This book does a fabulous job of making people think about what they say and their prejudices against those who are different. Some parts are profound in their simplicity and eye-opening with the totally real and heart wrenching examples that happen in everyday life.
What’s great about this book is that it showcases various forms of autism that show up on the spectrum. Not all autism is the same and mannerisms, behaviors, and what upsets each person is totally individual. No two cases are identical and how to cope with anxiety, sadness, and rapid mood changes varies immensely. You really have to know the person to understand. Claire LaZebnik stresses that point in the relationships between Ivy and Chloe and David and Ethan. Their parents are not as observant or patient as they could/should be and the siblings know each other best.
When Ivy or Ethan are upset, Chloe and David break through their defenses, ask them questions, and notice when they start tapping or talking louder that these are signs of distress that an outsider would not pick up on. When kids are “freaking out” in public we have a tendency to be dismissive and judgmental, to say it’s poor parenting, the child is a brat, or get angry because they’re “spoiling” your day. Several times throughout the book, Ethan and Ivy are pitied, looked down upon, and their opinions rejected because they “don’t know any better,” it made my blood boil just reading those words. There’s a scene where they’re at the bowling alley and these old ladies make comments about “them” being allowed out and whether they should use bumpers “for safety”, which could be a legitimate concern if there was a visible problem but the condescending approach, speechless.
Ivy and Ethan are incredibly real. If you’ve ever met someone with autism, you’ll recognize the blunt, factual commentary, focus on a specific niche or activity, and trouble processing the “why” question in regards to emotions and feelings. This book will truly make you think about things you might have never considered. How does someone who may not process/understand or know how to convey their feelings deal with lust or attraction? I mean, this is so so important. If someone who has autism has questions about this, how do they know if they’re attracted to the same sex? The LGBT dimension of this book is challenging and urges the reader to question. The conversations between Ivy and Chloe are fueled by understanding and asking matter of fact questions that lead Ivy to come to her own conclusions. These are model conversations and full of so much love.
David is an intriguing character. He’s sarcastic, cold, antisocial, and yet, there’s something about him that’s compassionate and will win your heart. The way he adores his brother and is willing to sacrifice his future for him, total swoon material. Don’t get me wrong, he’s abrasive and takes a bit to get used to, but he’s a catch.
I wasn’t the biggest fan of Chloe. The way she let terrible comments roll off her, the way she let her boyfriend and friends say stuff about Ivy, like she was abnormal or a mistake conflicted with the understanding and love she showed her sister. At first, Chloe seemed like an opinioned, flighty, typical popular girl and I pretty much loathed her. She fought one moment and shut down to keep her hot girl status the next. She does grow as the story progresses but it takes a long, long time.
Sometimes the pacing was slow because they focus was on the lust between Chloe and her boyfriend, which was full of semi-repulsive groping and horrible comments about Ivy and the fact that the boyfriend didn’t get enough attention because she was always helping out her sister. Just no.
If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this: