Reviews

Spectrums

Patty Osborne

Freddie, the narrator of Do you think this is strange? (Brindle & Glass) by Aaron Cully Drake, is a geeky seventeen-year-old who reminds me of Adrian Mole (see the hilarious Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ by Sue Townsend). Both boys have unique views of the world and are articulate enough to share them with us, but Freddy’s narrative is more interesting (and not always funny) because of his autistic point of view. We first meet Freddy when he is fourteen and living with his long-suffering dad, who is not always sympathetic to Freddy’s perspective. Freddy spends his days at various high schools, trying to avoid eye contact and conversation and wondering why his mother left him. He takes everything literally, so when a school principal, on the verge of expelling Freddy, says “Having read the reasons for my decision, do you have anything to say?” Freddy cannot keep himself from replying, “In order for me to tell you I have nothing to say I have to say it.” Not easy to be understanding of this unless you, as the reader, can be inside Freddy’s mind, where things follow a rigid logic. One day, in the school cafeteria, Freddy runs into Saskia, a girl he used to go to school with. Saskia is also on the autism spectrum and she used to smile a lot but now she hides inside her pink coat and Bose earphones and doesn’t look directly at Freddy. The two begin to communicate through text messages, and soon the mystery of his mother’s disappearance begins to unravel. The author is not autistic (although his daughter is) so I’m not sure whether this is a true depiction of the autistic mind but as Cully Drake says, “Each kid on the spectrum is their own little snowflake so why couldn’t two of those snowflakes be Saskia and Freddy?” I loved this book because it’s well-written, funny and interesting, and also because it seems to be unfolding in the rainy, mountainous suburb where I live, and where, so far, few good books have taken place.

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