Mika and Max by Laura Bloom

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Walker Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781760651145.
(Age: 10-14) Highly recommended. Themes: Friendships; Neuro-atypical characters; Puberty; Coming-of-age. Mika is 13 years old. Her life is changing, her view of herself is shifting and there are pressures at home and in all areas of her life. Some of those pressures are the ones she puts on herself, but life seems to be getting harder and her family do not seem to help. Knowing who she is and even what she should wear, and the way she should behave and where she fits is causing her internal angst. Then she is expected to go to a music festival with her parents and stay with a family that she does not know! But on this weekend away she meets Max, a 10 year old who is non-verbal and on the Autism Spectrum. The festival presents opportunities for her to begin to show some independence, but her connection with Max shows her that friendship sometimes happens, even when you don't expect it. The link they forge though puts them into danger, but ultimately this is a story of discovery that goes beyond the stressful circumstances.
I was delighted that this story was able to reveal a window into the world of the family with a neuro-atypical child. The struggles and joys were there, but the realities were also exposed. Mika's family life was more typical, but it too showed that we can sometimes distress each other without meaning to. Her emotional growth was given a boost by connecting with the younger boy, Max. The drama within the coming-of-age story was compelling and quite exciting. This will be a book to recommend to young pre-teen and early teen readers; it is not difficult or long, but there is a gentle pathos that is appealing. Laura Bloom's own family circumstances have given her opportunity to create characters that are real and believable. Teacher's notes are available.
Carolyn Hull