Pre order The state of Grace at Amazon (affiliate link).
I’d like to introduce you to a girl. We’re going to have to pop back in time to the last 70s for this one, but I’m sure we can make it.
She’s kind of scruffy, not very fashionable. Tends to frown a bit when she’s concentrating or confused, and that’s a lot of the time when she’s in school. Maths is really easy, reading is her all time favourite occupation, and she’d rather sit in at playtime and teach herself German from a book than risk playing out in the playground with the other girls.
Fast forward to senior school. Her parents pulled out all the stops to get her into a private school (thanks go also to the assisted places scheme, as without it the school wouldn’t have been nearly as good a one) because the girl really really didn’t want to go on to the local high school with the girls who had bullied her throughout primary school. And when you get to 11 or 12 you don’t get to just go play football with the boys any more, even this girl knows that.
Senior school was a bit of a haven once she’d made it to third year and made friends with a new girl who was bigger than most of the bullies. Life got a lot better.
But life was always confusing, because back in the 70s and 80s, girls didn’t get diagnosed with autism, not even high functioning autism or aspergers. (Let’s not get into the debates around functioning labels at this point, that’s what they were known as back then.) And so this girl struggled through life with anxiety, or diverticulitis, or depression, or any number of other issues right up until in her 40s she suddenly got her autism diagnosis.
How different could it have been, if I’d known the truth about myself from an early age? If I’d picked up a book from one of those library shelves and seen myself staring back from the pages. I kind of did – I loved Meg Murry in a Wrinkle in Time. I lived in hope that someone would swoop in from a far off land and rescue me like in The Chrysalids. And if your book had changelings, time travellers, or alien lands I was all over it. But there was never anyone like me, in my world, with my problems that I could recognise.
The State of Grace is the book I’ve always wanted to read. I actually cried with happiness when I finished reading it because it is just so perfect. As regular followers of the blog know I’ve known Rachael for years and been a massive supporter of her writing career throughout. But I would shout about the State of Grace regardless of the author (much like I did with M is for Autism and On the Edge of Gone) because I think it is so so important for our often invisible girls to see themselves on the page. To find a friend in fiction – to know they aren’t alone, they aren’t aliens or changelings, or adrift in time.
Teenage girls can indeed be autistic, and it makes what is a fairly tough time in life anyway into an absolute minefield. If the State of Grace can give people a glimpse into what it can be like and demystify the whole A-word thing a little bit, it will do awesome things. I urge you to read it whether you’re autistic or not because I think Rachael has written an incredibly honest, warm hearted and funny book that deserves the widest possible audience. And also because Grace deserves to have friends, as do we all.
The state of Grace publishes on 6th April this year, and is available for pre order at Amazon (affiliate link) and other bookshops.