For your reading consideration, I have another great YA title.
Kat and Meg Conquer the World by Anna Priemaza, is about two girls who meet and have a remarkable friendship. Kat is new in town since they have moved to help grandpa downsize. She’s got to start high school all over again since in her last province (yup, Canadian book) they start high school in grade 9, but in this place, it’s grade 10 so she feels like she has to do an unnecessary stint as freshman all over again. Kat is very intelligent and her grades typically reflect this. She also has anxiety, and it’s pretty intense. Her therapist has never been much help except when she taught her how to count to slow her breathing to calm down to prevent a panic attack. She’ll be counting a lot in this book. Where she does feel pretty good is the world of her online game, and watching videos from her favorite YouTuber.
Meanwhile, Meg is local, but can’t seem to keep any friends. Though every bit as intelligent as Kat, she struggles in school grade-wise. She’s bubbly and energetic, always running everywhere. She’s between friends when she and Kat get partnered by default for a long-term science project. Meg has ADHD with hyperactivity and therefore she struggles to focus on things she doesn’t have interest in, and she also struggles to make and keep friends since she’s missing some social cues. She’s always swapping friendship groups, though people do seem to like her in general. She is intensely in love with the same YouTuber Kat is. She is also very annoyed with her stepdad, who she called dad since her own dad died when she was little. He attempted to get custody of her younger siblings (his natural children), but not her, and she’s brooding over the whole thing. Meg is also Black, and much is made of her hair style, her little sister’s hairstyle, skin tone is mentioned and the occasional racial sensitivity nod, but I’m not sure how much she “feels” Black and hope Black reviewers will help here to see if this depiction rings true. More on that later.
You never really think about your relationship with books being anything too unusual. I mean, it’s painfully clear if you’re a reader that not everyone is a reader, and that you’re a bit different if you’re a book lover. That’s made obvious early and often by the popular people over the years.
What I’m talking about is that deeper relationship with books that is a lot closer to obsession.
In my case, I began reading before I was speaking all that much, and was the kind of baby who would escape my crib to go find the books (or toys; I woke up at night a lot and would get myself out of bed to where the action was). One time, I threw all the books I could find into my crib and cried because, while I had mastered getting out of the crib, getting back in wasn’t possible. I needed those books.
My mother doesn’t per-se remember teaching me to read. I just figured it out.
Side note: reading early has nothing to do with reading ability or intelligence, and late readers catch up. The teacher in me needs to tell you that.
But I digress.
The point I am making is that my relationship with books was different from my relationship with people. At night, books and the odd toy could comfort me, but people were unnecessary.
I recently read The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater. I picked it up due to reviews, without really knowing what it was about.
Given I’m working on my pronouns in the wake of Siri-gate, it was quite timely for me.
It’s the story of an incident on a bus in which a Black teen lit an agendered person on fire. They were just napping on the bus when the Black teen got the idea of lighting their skirt on fire. The skirt burned too hot, too fast, and they were very damaged as a result.
This is told as a narrative journalism where the author interviewed everyone involved. It is particularly helpful because it goes over a lot of terminology including pronoun usage in such a way as to explain it in a very neutral fashion, which can make it a little easier for someone like me who is still working on pronouns. The reason the race of the perpetrator matters since it’s also a story about his identity as well. It’s a very powerful story.
What I particularly like about the book is that Slater doesn’t make the story about “Dashka-the-author”; rather, she presents both teenagers’ stories and then you’re not sure who you’re mad at, by the end. It is a story of an incident, and well told.
The Girl with the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts was first published in 1980, it is still available (check out Scholastic’s book club!) and continues to be relevant even today. Read more about how this book resonated with me as an Autistic tween.
Here’s an archives piece that will be even more relevant soon with a new version of A Wrinkle in Time hitting the big screen in the spring of 2018. The new movie will feature a Black Meg and given how infrequently Neurodiverse types are female, let alone girls of color, I am already thrilled by this casting.
Anyone who knows Madeleine L’Engle’s classic story, A Wrinkle in Time, the Newberry Award winner that was considered “too hard” for children and subsequently rejected over two dozen times, knows the story is special. It’s the story of a family whose professor father is missing and the journey his “misfit” children, Charles Wallace, the baby, and Meg Wallace, his eldest daughter, undertake to rescue him. Both mother and father have multiple doctorates and mom even works in a lab at home. This is normal to the Murry family (if not the town). To the Neurodivergent crowd, A Wrinkle in Time can be seen as one of those special stories that means a whole bunch.