Kids Like Us is a compelling contemporary that highlights an autistic teenager’s summer in France, while he makes friends, falls in love and devours madeleines.
The story revolves around Martin, an American teenager, who’s on the ASD spectrum and travels to France along with his mother and sister for the summer. He joins a general-ed school for the few weeks he would be in France while his mother, a film director, wraps up her film shoot there. Elisabeth, his older sister, is tagging along before she’ll take on her journey to Stanford’s med school. This book was so much more than I’d anticipated. I thought it would be a light contemporary read that might bore me with the writing that’s telling too much. But I was pleasantly surprised to find so many more things in it. Plus, the writing was actually telling more than it meant. [Okay, I’ll stop with the deep shit talks.]
The story is narrated by Martin in a first-person narration and falls exactly in line with the autistic representation. He remembers everyone’s dialogues because his mind is on loop, keeps repeating them in his head, and even gets stuck at a few that affect him, either in a good or a bad way. He switches up pronouns which is yet another common trait of autism. In fact, a few chapters pop-up in an unintended second-person viewpoint and those made my day because, like I’ve already said, they mean more than they seem. Martin exhibits echolalia where he repeats what the other person said, and makes up for another authentic representation of autism. These are just a few of the so many practical characteristics that were included. One thing I especially loved was how Martin speaks, does and thinks like any other teenager would. There isn’t a hard-core stereotypical portrayal of the character, and over-the-top efforts weren’t taken to highlight his autism or make him purposefully appear special-ed. Martin effortlessly comes alive to me.
The supporting characters are another amazing aspect of this story. Except for the mother, who was a tad bit annoying for me, everyone else were distinctly characterized and given personalities that suited them the best. Right from Elisabeth who helped her brother understand stuff he might not be able to grasp in the right sense and stayed patient with him all throughout the story, to Layla, Martin’s autistic friend back at LA, who texted Martin all through his stay in France—sending him her music videos of playing piano or telling him upfront when she feels he’s going to forget about her—everyone had a role to play in Martin’s story and they did it fairly well.
The story is certainly emotional, for me, especially when Martin reminisces his time with his Dad (won’t speak too much about it in order to avoid spoilers) who by the way, has always kept his faith in his son and hoped he would learn to be happy forever. Even the entire plot line about Search, the french book he is slightly obsessed over, is interesting and gets woven commendably into the real story starring Martin. However, the story’s compulsive interference became a little annoying for me, particularly toward the end. It was good to read passages from Search when it was correlating with Martin’s reality but when that angle was going down anyway, I’d to skim through the references. Overall, this was a great read, no doubt.
I would recommend it to all those looking for a good autistic representation and an young adult tale that’s realistically overwhelming.
I received a digital copy of this book via Netgalley but that in no way influences my rating and/or opinions about it. Thank you Text Publishing and Hilary Reyl!