An unforgettable story about autism, sisterhood, and first love that’s perfect for fans of Jenny Han, Sophie Kinsella, and Sarah Dessen. New York Times bestselling author of Tell Me Three Things Julie Buxbaum raved: “I couldn’t put it down.”
Meet Chloe Mitchell, a popular Los Angeles girl who’s decided that her older sister, Ivy, who’s on the autism spectrum, could use a boyfriend. Chloe already has someone in mind: Ethan Fields, a sweet, movie-obsessed boy from Ivy’s special needs class.
Chloe would like to ignore Ethan’s brother, David, but she can’t—Ivy and Ethan aren’t comfortable going out on their own so Chloe and David have to tag along. Soon Chloe, Ivy, David, and Ethan form a quirky and wholly lovable circle. And as the group bonds over frozen yogurt dates and movie nights, Chloe is forced to confront her own romantic choices—and the realization that it’s okay to be a different kind of normal.
4 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.
OK confession time! I got this one a few months ago, and when I decided to start reading it, I kind of forgot exactly what it was going to be about. So in essence, I kind of went into the book a bit blind. Like so blind that I forgot her sister was on the autism spectrum, and then I was like “oh yeah!!” So it took me a bit to really get into the story, but once I did I was seriously sucked in.
At the beginning, Chloe isn’t necessarily that endearing, and it takes a bit to really get a feel for who she really is…and part of that is that you start off seeing the facade that she shows to her peers, and not necessarily all of who she is inside. And she’s not the only one I was unimpressed with, I really didn’t fall in love with many characters at the beginning, from her family to her friends and boyfriend. In fact, I felt more antagonistic towards many of them, particularly her stepfather. But I’ll get back to that.
As the story progresses you get to see why Chloe chooses to put on the persona and maintain her status in the popular crowd, with the “hot” boyfriend. I actually think this is one of the best depictions I’ve ever read of a teenager going along and trying to fit in. With all that she struggles with at home, I could see how she would want to be liked and how much easier it would be for her to just keep her opinions to herself. You could see a bit of that internal struggle for her, but ultimately she didn’t want to make waves, and she kind of just wanted to feel what she perceived to be “normal”. It’s always disappointing, for sure, but I *got* it. Not sure if that makes sense. But it also makes her development as a character that much more satisfying. Seeing her start to feel like “enough is enough” and that perhaps other qualities are more important in friends and boyfriends than what she was initially seeking just really felt natural and believable. That it’s OK to have different priorities, and to stand up for yourself against the norm. Seriously, I really ended up loving Chloe by the end of the book. It’s actually kind of nice to see a main character who is popular not because she’s secretly a nerd and tired of being bullied, but because she just likes being liked.
David, Ivy and Ethan were the other stars of this show. If you’re looking for a book with a grand romance, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this one. The romance with David is very slow building, and while I adored it, it’s really not the primary focus of the story. It kind of gets shuffled to the background. In the end I appreciated their developing friendship and banter more than the romance, which kind of felt rushed and tacked on in the end. But seriously people, the developing relationship was SOLID. I enjoyed that David wasn’t all sunshine and roses, that he was kind of a difficult character to love, but you could understand him as well, and how he came to be the way he was. And he didn’t lose all those antagonistic qualities at the end, he was still kind of a dick to people, but you love him anyways.
And Ivy and Ethan were depicted so well. I mean, I haven’t really had many encounters with folks on the autism spectrum, but I really thought that this was a fantastic representation of some of the unique attributes that can make them up…particularly because they were even different from each other. And I really enjoyed the conversations that Chloe and David had, and the representations of the encounters they had with different types of people when out with their siblings. It was heartbreaking, but unfortunately realistic. And I loved that the story was from the siblings perspective, and showed the different challenges that they can face. They’re not perfect, but you could really feel their love for their siblings.
Chloe’s mother and stepfather were challenging characters. I really hated so many things about her stepfather. He’s not evil, he’s got many shades of gray…in that way he’s really realistic. And I know we’re seeing him from Chloe’s perspective, but damn he made me mad sometimes. I’m up in the air with how his role played out in the story…I guess because he really is realistic in that he’s still got these really bad qualities, but he’s not all bad, and he can have some good moments too. Sometimes I can’t deal with so much real, you know? It’s so much easier when people are black and white. In fact, many of the characters in this book are that real…from James and Sarah, to David’s parents, to Chloe’s parents. I admire it as much as it vexes me as a reader.
OK, I’m getting seriously verbose here. And I haven’t even talked about everything. I enjoyed the Ivy twist in the middle of the book…I kind of saw it coming, but I thought it was another piece of diversity that was handled really well.
My only real complaint with the story is that the ending was odd to me. It just kind of ended. I didn’t feel that normal story flow, with a solid and clear ending. And I guess my one other niggle is that occasionally we would encounter scenes that seemed meaningless in the overall scheme of the plot (like a moment in Camp’s class would just happen, and then we’d be onto lunch, and I didn’t really understand the point of it being included).
So basically if you’re looking for a diverse read with a fantastic look at life with someone on the autism spectrum, you NEED this book. If you just love good YA coming of age tales, I would really recommend it as well. Despite the few things that niggled me, I really really enjoyed this book and highlighted so many of Chloe and David’s interactions.