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Autism Awareness Month: 5 books with autistic characters


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April is Autism Awareness Month, a time when autism charities attempt to show what life is like for non-neurotypical people.

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This is something writers try to do all the time, showing us different experiences and truths, so here are five novels which offer an attempt to capture the experience of autism.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
Since its publication in 2003, this has become somewhat of a go-to in terms of autism-representation. It’s been made into a critically-acclaimed play and is now often taught in schools. Yet Haddon himself has denied that main character Christopher has autism, and it is certainly never explicitly stated that his different way of looking at the world is due to autism. What it is, however, is a brilliantly written, engaging and often darkly-comic mystery novel, worth a read by anybody of any age.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Whilst many novels tend to focus upon young people with autism, Simsion’s Rosie trilogy looks instead at the world of dating through a non-neurotypical lens. Don, a genetics professor, has a very exacting list for the kind of woman he thinks he would like to marry, and Rosie is not it. Yet, oddly, he can’t seem to stay away from her or forget her. This is essentially a rom-com with added awkwardness.

House Rules by Jodi Picoult
Picoult is a prolific writer, having churned out 25 full novels since 1992. Her novels have a definite style, with shifting viewpoints to enable every side of a zeitgeisty issue to be explored. In this one, 18-year-old Jacob is accused of murdering his tutor, with his Aspergers making it increasingly difficult to exonerate him. Even if you’re slightly jaded with courtroom scenes, seeing the misunderstandings possible when things are taken literally can give you a fresh perspective.

The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd
If you enjoy Haddon’s offering above, this one follows a similar premise, with protagonist Ted’s Aspergers both aiding and hindering him with his investigation into the disappearance of his cousin from a pod on the London Eye. Dowd’s untimely death left quite a gap in the YA world, but Ted’s adventures have been continued by the equally as acclaimed Robin Stevens in The Guggenheim Mystery.

The Way Things Look to Me by Roopa Farooki
This novel takes a different look at autism, being written from a family member’s perspective. At twenty-three, Asif is left to care for his sisters when both of their parents die. Rebellious Lila is enough of a challenge, but youngest sibling Yasmin’s autism proves an even greater challenge. This is perhaps a controversial choice for this list, as it does not always present autism in a positive light, yet it may help those whose lives are affected, however tangentially, by the condition.

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