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Do You Think This Is Strange? by Aaron Cully Drake
This is absolutely the best book I’ve read this year.
Every now and again there is a novel that can change the way you view the world. For me, the first book that did this was Minister Without Portfolio by Michael Winter and you can read my review of this book here. The second is Do You Think This Is Strange?. I could not stop reading this novel, nor could I stop laughing! Through humour and wonderful insight Aaron Cully Drake shows just how the daily life of an autistic teenager is, and it’s not so different than every other teenager.
We watch the story unfold through 17 year old Autistic Freddy, whose literal interpretation of the world not only gets him into awkward conversations but gets him into fights with bullies. His narration is humorous as well as insightful as Freddy is very aware of how horrible he is at conversation and after getting hospitalized by a group of kids kicking the crap out of him he takes steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again. He remembers everything that’s happened to him and everything he’s done that has or hasn’t gone well for him. Drake unfolds the narrative slowly and steadily through Freddy’s flashbacks as they either distract him from his daily life or consume him during his quiet thought filled moments at the end of each day and through the present ordeals Freddy faces. We see Freddy learn to deal with bullying, reconnect with an old friend, have his first kiss, and reconcile his life with his father.
While laughter kept me reading at the start, the weight of the turning point towards the end of the novel is what will stay with me. I don’t think I can ever look at another person without the compassion this book has shown me. We judge too quickly, categorizing personalities, traits, and habits into normal and not, and for what? The comfort that the ‘normal’ can stand on one side of the fence and label all the rest? This book shows how there really is no fence, no line, no difference. We’re all human, we all live the lives that are before us, come to terms with love and loss, and we’re all aware of this world in one way or another. This is a book I will keep on my top shelf along with Jane Austen, The Luminaries, Meditations, Three Day Road, and of course Minister Without Portfolio.