Saturday, May 21, 2011

Anything But Typical Book Review

I recently read Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin with my Teen Book Club. It is the story of a twelve year old boy named Jason who has autism. Jason relates the story in first person perspective so we get his perspective on what it’s like to interact with a world full of neuro-typicals (NT’s). Jason doesn’t think and react like the NT’s and this leads to trying times at school. His one outlet is writing stories on an online forum called Storyboard. There he can share his ideas anonymously without people focusing on his autism. Through Storyboard, Jason meets a girl named Phoenixbird that enjoys his stories and corresponds with him. Jason becomes infatuated with her and the boost to his self esteem helps at school. His parents decide to take him to the Storyboard Convention as a reward and Jason is horrified when he finds out that Phoenixbird will also be attending. Phoenixbird doesn’t know how to act so she runs away. Jason is crushed and decides that he will never write again. But he changes his mind after he attends a writing workshop and in the end Phoenixbird hopes they will keep in touch because she enjoys his stories.

The author did a fantastic job in describing Jason’s feelings. His anxiety like pinpricks across his skin and the feeling of disconnect between his head and his body. She makes us understand that people with autism do not process information the same as other people and we should not expect them to do so. Jason’s parents are wonderfully portrayed as his dad accepts and understands Jason’s differences but his mother struggles with it. Phoenixbird’s initial reaction was realistic because she didn’t know what to think upon meeting Jason and you can tell that her request to stay friends at the end comes from a new understanding.

This was an interesting title for my Book Club because we usually read the popular fantasy and adventure stories. Most of them thought the book was “boring” so we had an engaging discussion about the genre of Realistic Fiction versus Fantasy. We tried to figure out the story arc and we tried to decipher what the climax would be without a supervillain that had to be destroyed. They all agreed that the story did provide an awareness and understanding of people with autism. And they learned that stories can be entertaining even though there are no car chases or bloody battles.