Disclosure – I was sent a proof of this book free for review, and links may be affiliate links.
There’s a trepidation in approaching a book about an autistic character when you’re autistic. What if it doesn’t describe autism the way you experience it? What if you’re going to have to spend the next however long replying to people that that’s not quite how it works for you? We’re desperate to see ourselves on the page, like other people get to, but far too often it’s a caricature or a stereotype written by someone with no experience, rather than a representation.
Not in this case. In this case, debut author Elle McNicoll is neurodivergent herself. She writes with a sure touch, describing aspects of autistic life without apology, but also making it clear that there’s no one way to be autistic, or to experience autism, and although her two main autistic characters have a lot in common, given they are sisters, there’s mention of other characters and experiences too. This doesn’t read like a debut, and while it’s middle grade fiction suitable for younger readers, (Addie is 11 and narrates the story accordingly) I thoroughly enjoyed it for myself too.
There were particular parts that leapt out at me. Being bullied by a teacher, for doing things differently. Not fitting in at school. That sense of burning injustice and overwhelming pain on behalf of someone else. The need to do something about it. Hyperfocus on a favoured interest, acquisition of knowledge, a deep dive into a topic.
I was not diagnosed autistic as a child, and I didn’t have anyone to explain to me the things that I was going through. There weren’t books with openly autistic characters either, and so I want to leap up and down and shout about every one I come across now, and make sure every child gets the opportunity to understand about other viewpoints. It’s important.
One day, I’d like for it to be possible for a character to be incidentally autistic rather than it having to be the point if that makes any sense, but I think we’ve a way to go before that happens. I’m very glad that we’ve got books like this explaining autism in the mean time.
My autism isn’t always my superpower. Sometimes it’s difficult. But on the days when I’m finding electricity in things, seeing the details that others might not, I like it a lot.”
About the book:
A Kind of Spark tells the story of 11-year-old Addie as she campaigns for a memorial in memory of the witch trials that took place in her Scottish hometown. Addie knows there’s more to the story of these ‘witches’, just like there is more to hers. Can Addie challenge how the people in her town see her, and her autism, and make her voice heard?
A story about friendship, courage and self-belief, Addie’s story was born from Elle’s own experiences of neurodiversity and her commitment to seeing greater representation in children’s books.
Published by KnightsOf, a publisher focused on actively finding voices from under-represented backgrounds. They are committed to publishing inclusive, commercial books and ensuring that the most diverse team possible, from across backgrounds and communities, work on every book. #BooksMadeBetter
Find A Kind of Spark at Waterstones (affiliate link) or via your local independent bookshop. (Lots of places seem to be low on stock, but hang in there, it’s worth it.)
If you want to read other autistic voices, other recommendations/ reviews here: