Young Adult/Middle Grade
Published by Encelia Press (23rd October 2018)
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Encelia Press, and the author via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Actual rating of 2.75
Alex knows how many steps exactly that it takes to walk from Mason Middle school to his home. He can tell you the specs of a car just by looking at it, and he knows the answers to his AP Math questions, generally before his teacher, all of this is normal. It is normal for his mother to have an Earl Grey tea when she gets home from work if she’s had a stressful day, and it is normal for them to drive over the streets named after dead generals so that they can visit Alex’s father at the veteran’s hospital. What is not normal is that tech firm Calliope has begun a new exercise for those who are not quite normal, like Alex. TV screens are all over town, as big as billboards, and now there are even TV screens in his classroom. The things that come out of the TV screens are not normal, they hurt and they want to change Alex and the other special needs students, and so far, they are succeeding. The world as we know it is changing, Calliope’s resident AI – Sophie, is out to change the world for the better, or so she thinks and it is up to Alex and his friends to save the day. Trying to make everyone the same, cut out the abnormal, cut out the differences, but the thing is, people aren’t supposed to be the same, and honestly, what is normal, anyway?
I was pretty excited to read this book as the protagonist is a fifteen year old Autistic boy named Alex, to be more specific, he has Aspergers. He is not “normal” by general means, but he is an extraordinarily intelligent young man who can see that the world is going to hell, and he intends to do what he can, along with a bunch of other weks – as they call themselves (weird kids), and I thought the premise was absolutely brilliant. A world where tech is taking over and it’s not for the better, when we look at the way the world is going today, the plot of the story honestly doesn’t seem so far fetched. However, I felt like in the authors attempt to make the reader see what it’s like in Alex’s “not so normal” head, that it ended up coming across as a monotonous read, lacking any emotion.
Alex is a great character and I love that this book explored the brilliance of the autistic mind. People may look at someone who is autistic and claim they aren’t as intelligent as they are, and I love that this was really pushed in this story. Our other protagonist is a girl called Sara who is in Alex’s class because she has behavioral problems, she abuses prescription drugs, and she can teach you how to boost a car, but she has a bit of a temper on her. These two characters were well written but I won’t lie, Sara annoyed me quite a bit, and I did find some of the knowledge that she had of certain things to be a little bit far fetched, but hey, who am I to judge, it could be a thing.
There were certain things in the story that seemed quite heavy for the story line itself, but yet, were delivered with such a lack of emotion or feeling that I didn’t know what to make of it. I’m not sure if it was delivered this way in order to make it fit in with the targeted demographic of young young adult, pushing middle grade.
The narration, as said above, came across incredibly monotonous and at times a little bit boring, this in turn made the pacing not so great, for a book of under 300 pages, it took me over a week to finish it, this is not normal. Though in saying that, I was intrigued enough with the story to finish it, I won’t lie, I did consider DNFing a couple of times, but I wanted to see how the story ended, even though I had an idea.
There is a part near the end when it’s heading towards the big showdown between Alex and Sophie, that an observation in a certain room was made. What happened to this particular thing was alluded to, and I feel like it was up to the reader to come to their own conclusions, though I kind of wish it was explored a bit more because it felt like it was just brushed over when it could have been a fantastic revelation if I’m correct in my assumption.
In the end, this is a story about society trying to push for those who are a little left of center or who aren’t considered normal by societal standards to become normal, to become like everyone else, and it follows those amazing people who fight back against adversity. I actually had a small epiphany while reading this book, I live with anxiety and depression, and the amount of times, during a panic attack or depression spiral that I have said the words “I just wish I was normal” is astounding, while reading this book I thought, you know what, I’m my own normal, just like Alex and Co. I don’t want to be like anyone else because I like who I am, and I feel that my mental illness MAKES me who I am, just like Alex’s autism makes him who he is. And upon realising that this book may have helped me instead of just being an entertaining read, I have actually bumped my rating up. I am in the minority with my rating, to which I’m happy about because I hate to see books fail and I wish that this story worked for me more than it did. But if I can walk away from this story realising that I’m fine just the way that I am, then I guess it’s done something right.
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