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Read Harder Challenge #13: Kids Like Us & Read Harder Challenge #14: A Study in Charlotte

Posted about 5 years ago by Jennifer Deuell

Prompt #13: A book by or about someone that identifies as neurodiverse

I was super pumped to complete this prompt.  Writing about characters who identify as neurodiverse is definitely trending right now and its about time!  If you don’t know what this means, the Neurodiversity Symposium at Syracuse University defines it this way:

“Neurodiversity is a concept where neurological differences are to be recognized and respected as any other human variation. These differences can include those labeled with Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Dyscalculia, Autistic Spectrum, Tourette Syndrome, and others.”

Before I became I librarian, I was a special education teacher for almost 10 years so this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart.  During my time teaching, I met so many amazing students with some wonderful strengths and traits.  Personally, I believe that neurodiversity should not necessarily be viewed as a problem to be fixed, but as a difference to be respected.

Hilary Reyl’s, Kids Like Ustackles this topic head on and for that I respect it.  Martin, the main character, and his best friend Layla, both have autism.  Martin travels to France with his mom while she is shooting a movie.  While there, Martin begins to make “general ed” friends, of which Layla (back home) is skeptical. 

Throughout the story, both Martin and Layla argue that their autism is part of who they are not something that needs corrected and I LOVE this about the book.  Unfortunately, that’s about the only thing I loved.  The plot is super slow and boring, the characters are all flat and I couldn’t get invested in any of them, and I don’t feel the author did a great job portraying a character with autism.  Sadly, I don’t believe Reyl did this topic justice.

Despite my dissatisfaction with this book, I do feel neurodiversity is a worthwhile topic to explore.  Here are some other suggestions you  may wish to try:

A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass

A List of Cages by Robin Roe

Fish in a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt

When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds

Riding the Bus with my Sister by Rachel Simon

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

The Rosie Project by Graeme C. Simsion

Also, here are Book Riot’s suggestions for this prompt.

Prompt #14: A cozy mystery

You may be asking yourself, what exactly is a cozy mystery?  I know I was when I began looking for books for this prompt.  Apparently, all cozy mysteries contain some common elements including an amateur sleuth, a small town setting, and a lack of “gory details” surrounding the crime.  Surprisingly, it took me a while to find a YA cozy mystery.  It seemed like every mystery I came across was so dark.  I finally settled on A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro which I accessed through our Hoopla app.

A Study in Charlotte is a spin-off of the famous Sherlock Holmes mysteries.  It follows Charlotte Holmes and James Watson, descendants of the original Holmes and Watson.  The two teens attend boarding school together in Connecticut and become fast friends (big surprise).  They quickly find themselves in the midst of a murder mystery that mirrors one of the original duos’ famous cases.

The premise of this book sounded really fun to me.  But, to be honest, this book was a total fail in my view.  The first major pitfall for me was the nonchalant tone the author uses to depict topics of drug abuse and rape.  Cavallaro writes these two topics into Charlotte’s story very early on in the book and they both seem to come of out nowhere.  First of all, the two topics seemed totally jarring in comparison to the tone of the book.  Furthermore, you don’t just write about these serious topics then not fully address them.  You just don’t.  These early blunders left a bad taste in my mouth that tainted the rest of the book.

Authorial faux pas aside, I felt the rest of the book was sub par as well.  Charlotte and James’ relationship seemed very contrived.  There wasn’t a lot of time dedicated to building their friendship and they seemed so different from each other that I found it hard to believe that they’d be drawn to each other as friends.  It seemed as if their family histories were their only binding force.

I also really didn’t like Charlotte.  If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you know I like a strong female character.  Charlotte is anything but.  She’s self-centered, repeatedly throws James under the bus, and fawns over bad guys throughout the book.  Not good!

Sorry guys, but August was a bad month for my Book Riot challenge.  Oh well.  You win some, you lose some.

If you are interested in trying some other cozy mysteries, here are some suggestions:

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan C. Bradley

Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

High End Finish by Kate Carlisle

Eleventh Grave in Moonlight by Darynda Jones

Murder Strikes a Pose : A Downward Dog Mystery by Tracy Weber

Here are Book Riot’s suggestions.



Jennifer Deuell

Jenn Deuell is a Librarian with Richmond Public Library. She is a native of Fredericksburg, VA but has lived in Richmond for long enough that she now considers it home. She loves all things YA and can usually be found curled up at home with a good book (rainy day or not). Her other hobbies include traveling and spending time with family, including her husband, daughter Hannah, and two rescued pit bulls. For YA reading recommendations from Jenn, visit Bookologist.

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