A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
This book dispels some myths about autism and reinforces some positives. Selah learns a lot on her own about supports for sensory issues including fidgets, weighted blankets, cushions, gummies, colored bracelets, and ear plugs. A Resources section in the back includes tools the author herself has found helpful as well as autism-focused books and articles and links to autism advocacy organizations. Kids in the story read the play The Misanthrope, by Moliere, in class.
It isn't important to be what others consider normal. It's freeing to be yourself and communicate your truth, but it also takes a whole lot of courage. Rigid rules can backfire and confine you. Feelings, even big ones, are for sharing and are not shameful. Poetry is a wonderful way to let out those big feelings creatively and share them with the world.
Positive Role Models
Selah tries to look "normal" to others and hides her struggles until she can't contain how upset it makes her and she gets in trouble. When she becomes curious about what autism is and how she can help herself feel more comfortable in the world is when she starts to open up to the idea that she is happier when she's not hiding who she is. But it takes a lot of perseverance as she encounters road blocks to her growth from her school and her mother. Through her poetry she finds a way to reach others and finally convey her truth.
Selah, her grandfather, and her mother are all on different parts of the autism spectrum according to the author, who is also on the autism spectrum. In a behavioral health center, Selah notices that people of all races and ages are there for support. Selah is raised by a single mother and her grandfather lives next door. One person at the fantasy convention uses they/them pronouns.
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Violence & Scariness
Selah hits another girl to protect herself and gives her a bloody nose. She also gets overwhelmed by sensory stimuli and runs to bathrooms to cry. Middle school students tease her. Adults yell at each other. Talk of Selah's father leaving her mother when Selah was too young to remember.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Talk of crushes.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The neighbors have loud, drunken bonfires many nights.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Good Different is a novel in verse about a middle school girl on the autism spectrum written by an author who is also on the spectrum. The main character, Selah, doesn't know she's on the spectrum at first, which causes her to try too hard to act "normal," even though she's suffering and spending lots of time in the bathroom crying when she gets overwhelmed. Selah slowly learns to communicate her needs and her truth to those around her with the help of her poetry. While the publisher's recommended age is 8-12, even older kids on the autism spectrum will get a lot out of this book -- it's always good to be reminded how important it is to advocate for your needs and be proud of who you are. Neurotypical kids will learn more about their friends on the spectrum and how to advocate for them as well. Expect a lot of mentions of How to Train Your Dragon – Selah is a huge dragon fan. Violence is mild: A girl gets hit.
Is It Any Good?
Here's a book that throws that dumb stereotype of the stoic autistic experience out the window -- it's full of deep feelings and soul-searching and is just an absolute joy. Selah's got it harder than many kids with autism nowadays who get early intervention and school supports. She has to look up autism herself on the internet. She figures out largely on her own what would help her learn, and when she brings her own supports to school (sunglasses, gummies, fidgets), they are taken away from her. Plus, Mom doesn't want her daughter to feel different because she feels so different, too: Though it's not entirely clear in the reading, author Meg Eden Kuyatt writes in her afterward that Mom is on the spectrum as well. It's clearer that Pop/Grandpa is, however. He lives next door, often wanders off without warning, and loves to collect things. He's the one who gives Selah the journal, the catalyst for all of her vital soul-searching.
As Selah pours her feelings out in poem after poem, it really helps her break down her own rigid rules about who she's supposed to be around other people, this idea of "normal." And then she takes things so many courageous steps further, first sharing a poem at a fantasy convention open mic, then sharing her poems at school where she's the most targeted and misunderstood. Of course, the hardest and most important person for Selah to reach with her truth is her mom. The poem she writes for her confronts her mother's fears in such a profound way and helps the whole family move forward. There's a small moment in the story that encompasses what Good Different will be to many kids on the autism spectrum. It's when Selah is overwhelmed and crying in a bathroom stall at a fantasy convention and someone reaches under the stall with their spare pair of earplugs. "I always keep extras with me… Lots of us use sensory tools here," they say. Through this story, the author is the older autistic generation reaching out, handing kids tools to help them navigate the world as exactly who they are and do it proudly.
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Our Editors Recommend
Books with Characters on the Autism Spectrum
Terrific Novels in Verse
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