Parents' Guide to

Good Different

By Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 9+

Girl with autism embraces her truth in great novel in verse.

A middle school girl with reddish brown hair attempts an awkward half-smile while holding tight to a red journal. Behind her, words and doodles from the journal form the shape of a dragon's wings.

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Is It Any Good?

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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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