I was intrigued by On the Spectrum as soon as I read the synopsis. I mean, it’s set in Paris, which is always fun, but I liked that it deals with both eating disorders and autism. I love when young adult books deal with tough issues well, and this one certainly did.
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
(From Goodreads) Growing up in the shadow of a famous mother, Clara has never felt good about her body. Now, at sixteen, she has an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. After a social media disaster, she decides to escape for the summer to Paris to stay with her estranged dad and her six-year-old brother, Alastair, who is on the autism spectrum. Charged with his care, Clara and Alastair set out to explore the city. Paris teaches Clara about first love and gives her a new love of food. And Alastair teaches Clara about patience, trust and the beauty of loving without judgment.
I picked up this book because I I was intrigued by a young adult novel that includes so much diversity. I loved the idea of it centering around a girl and her little brother, because I feel like that’s a sibling relationship we don’t get to see that often, especially in a positive light. Plus, you know, Paris.
On the Spectrum definitely exceeded my expectations. I was so ready for this not to be all that great, partly because I have gotten picky about YA and partly because, based on the synopsis, it felt like this book might be attempting to do too much. Jennifer Gold was very ambitious with this project, and it completely paid off. I really loved how each subject was addressed in this novel, and how they related to each other. Alastair was by far my favorite character (how often do you read YA with a kickass six-year-old character?), and I really loved how his autism was handled. I thought it was real and honest, and the way his differences were handled by each of his family members was very well done. It’s something that friends and family members of those on the spectrum need to learn how to deal with, and it can be a challenge. This book did a great job of illustrating those challenges, while also making it clear that Alastair was no less of a person. I really enjoyed that aspect of the story.
I also liked the way this book deals with eating disorders and toxic relationships. Especially when it comes to family, sometimes we aren’t aware of how we harm those around us, even those we love. It’s something I identify with, but don’t see often enough in books. I think it’s an important addition to YA literature, because I think it would have helped me a lot to read a book like this as a teenager. Clara has complicated relationships with her family, and that is a big part of her life. I loved seeing a family that wasn’t dysfunctional or happy, but fell somewhere in between. Because, for me, that’s normal.
The characters themselves were so dynamic and interesting and I genuinely liked every single one of them. Nothing in this book is black and white, it’s complicated and difficult and real, and the characters deal with things in ways that seem true to life. t
★★★★☆ – On the Spectrum is one of the best contemporary young adult novels I’ve read in a while. It was just so, so well done. If you like contemporary YA, I think this is a must-read. It addresses difficult issues and manages not to make light of them while still being a fun read. I was really impressed by this book, and I can’t wait to see what Jennifer Gold comes up with next.
On the Spectrum will be in stores September 12th. You can preorder it on Amazon now.
This book was provided to me by the publisher and NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
*This post contains affiliate links, which means I may get a small commission for purchases made through this post.*