Anything But Typical

Baskin, N. R. (2009) Anything But Typical. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Twelve year old Jason Blake is anything but typical.  Sure, he lives in a normal house with normal parents and he goes to a normal suburban school.  But Jason has Asperger’s and his non-neurotypical self doesn’t really fit in well in a world filled with – and designed around – neurotypicals.  Jason’s one solace is the net, especially the Storyboard website, where he can not only chat without his Asperger’s making communication difficult, but he can also share his stories and ideas with the rest of the world in a way that makes sense to him.

As far as I can tell from my limited knowledge of the topic, Baskin captures the voice of a child on the Autistic/Asperger spectrum remarkably well.  From the start it is clear that Jason does not simply have difficulties fitting in, but that he is, in fact, occasionally on the verge of violent outbursts as a result of his frustration and confusion.  At the same time, our first person experience of a situation that most of us have only seen as outsiders keeps readers sympathetic even in during behavior that most would otherwise recoil from.

However, the main strength of Anything But Typical does not come from the ways in which Jason is not typical, but from the ways in which his experiences and problems are achingly familiar to every reader.  Jason may find certain social behaviors – such as making eye contact – to be difficult and distracting rather than comforting, but he still longs for friends, respect, and especially for girls to like him.   Like most teens, he longs to be someone different – someone that is smarter, more popular, more in control of himself – and he feels as though he is a constant disappointment to his parents.  And when he isn’t worrying about all that, he is mostly just wishing that people would leave him alone and let him be himself.

Slowly and painfully, Jason begins to learn how to be himself and still manage to survive a world in which he appears to be anything but typical.  In joining in him, readers  are not only given a glimpse of what it is like to be Jason, but are also shown how very much like Jason we all are.  Best for 9-14

Awards and Reviews:  Starred Kirkus Review, Starred Booklist Review

Author Website:  http://www.norabaskin.com/

crossposted at my elljay

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