Review Blog

Dec 07 2017

Kids like us by Hilary Reyl

cover image

Text Publishing, 2017. ISBN 9781925498912
(Age: Older teens - adults) Themes: Autism. Relationships. Family. Friendships. French setting. Martin's mother is directing a movie set in a French Chateau, the family have rented a small cottage for the summer and Martin is attending the local French school for experience while keeping in touch with his friend Layla from his Los Angeles school 'The Center' for kids with challenges. They both have a form of autism where they are attached to stories. Layla has an affinity with the TV series 'Downton Abbey' while Martin frames his world through the lens of the novel 'In search of lost time' by Marcel Proust, introduced to him by his French father.
Being the son of a movie director means the 16 year old is popular with his peers, Layla calls these sort of people Moths, drawn to the flame of celebrity but Martin, who is very observant and analytical, is surprised to find himself enjoying interacting with the local kids, especially a girl who he finds closely resembles Gilberte, one of the characters in his book. Martin is good at swimming, cooking and is passionate about particular passages of music. He is observant and a good listener which helps him interact with and translate for the French group. But relationships have always been a challenge because of his autism, he is more comfortable living in his own bubble and he is still struggling with his parents' divorce and his father's imprisonment for fraud. When his mother and older sister Elizabeth both start new relationships Martin struggles to adjust but he courageously engages all of the coping mechanisms he has been taught and with the help of his support network, finds his world expanding "My body craves the unknown. I've never craved the unknown before. I've always hidden from it. This is totally new." p109.
Martin sometimes gets his pronouns mixed up, a legacy of his delayed language development, which adds an interesting dimension but he always tells his story clearly and with purpose. The family relationships are convincing but the French friends are sketchily drawn.
This is a coming of age story from a new perspective but which underlines our common need for family, friendships, love, understanding and acceptance.
Suitable for older teens and adults, may be a bit slow for younger readers.
Sue Speck

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