A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Kids Like Us is narrated by a teen on the autism spectrum who relates to the world through the filter of his favorite book by the French author Marcel Proust. While themes and symbolism from that book inform much of the narrator's internal dialogue, they're fully explained within the context of the novel -- readers don't need to know Proust to appreciate the story about a boy figuring out how to fall in love when even the simplest everyday interactions are stressful and demanding. Teens drink at parties, and the French students smoke. One teen is badly hurt in a crash caused by a drunk driver. Two teens have parents in jail -- one for embezzlement, the other for dealing drugs. There are brief references to prostitutes and drug abuse.
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What's the story?
In KIDS LIKE US, Martin, 16, is spending a summer in France with his older sister and mother, who's directing a movie in a small town. At home he goes to a school for children on the autism spectrum, but this summer he's trying a "general-ed" school. Martin's hopes for a life-changing experience are heightened when he sees a girl he's certain is the very one from his favorite book, a 20th-century French epic he uses to interpret the world. Martin feels he's falling in love, but he has difficulty separating the real world from fantasy, and he's unsure whether his new friends are genuine or just using him to get close to his mom's glamorous work.
Is it any good?
Hilary Reyl's first teen novel brims with hope and heartache, exploring complex ideas about identity, relationships, and uncertainty through a boy on the autism spectrum who has a rich inner life. Kids Like Us is an insightful look at how our interior lives influence the way we engage with the world at large, for better and for worse. Martin has a distinctive voice, yet any reader can relate to his concerns: reconciling fantasy with reality, trying to fit in, worrying about how he's perceived, figuring out how to connect with others. Especially poignant are the glimpses of how hard he and his family work to help Martin unlock himself, from his mother's yoga breaths to his beloved father's devotion and their fierce support of his unique view of the world. Reyl skillfully weaves in themes and symbolism from Proust, infusing the book with complex layers of meaning. Kids who love literature will revel in Martin's adoration for Proust -- and might discover him themselves.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Martin applies themes and ideas from his favorite book to his everyday experiences in Kids Like Us. Is there a book or movie that resonates strongly with you and connects to your life?
Does this book change your understanding of autism, or of people who in other ways are not neurotypical?
How would you answer Layla's recurring question: "Do you think our phones are instruments of communication or torture?"
- Author: Hilary Reyl
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
- Publication date: November 14, 2017
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 18
- Number of pages: 288
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: July 22, 2019
Our editors recommend
For kids who love tales of romance and kids on the autism spectrum
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