The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee is a fun, well-written book, if an imperfect autism read.
Browsing: middle grade
The book ultimately provides a single-faceted understanding of autism and many of the painful interactions with Willem’s teacher and peers would likely hit too close to home for autistic students.
Like in real life, autism spectrum disorder alone is never the whole story, and Baskin does a good job balancing Jason’s autism with his writing life, family, school, and budding friendship. She’s succeeded in creating an authentic autistic character who is anything but stereotypical.
For all that there are moments when Rose’s voice is nuanced and shines, those nuances continuously pushed aside for a far more stereotypical narrative. This is not the story of an autistic character written for an inclusive audience; this is a story about an autistic character written for a neurotypical audience.
This book was awarded the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, but as well intentioned as it might have been, it was clearly written by someone with almost no understanding of what Aspies are really like—it was written by and for a neurotypical audience.
What I love most about Kiara—and the novel itself—is that she is unflinchingly genuine. Sooner or later, most Aspie characters written by neurotypicals eventually become caricatures. Having an Autistic character written by an actual Aspie makes all the difference.