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Autism in Middle Grade and Young Adult Literature: Background information when reading Best Boy

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Best Boy

by Eli Gottlieb

Best Boy by Eli Gottlieb X
Best Boy by Eli Gottlieb
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2015, 256 pages
    May 2016, 256 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Bradley Sides
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About this Book

Autism in Middle Grade and Young Adult Literature

This article relates to Best Boy

Print Review

Eli Gottlieb's Best Boy tells the story of the life of Todd Aaron, an autistic man struggling to understand and fit into the world that surrounds him. Todd's story, while unique in its own right, is increasingly familiar. Autism is something that is increasingly talked about in the American popular culture and embedded in the American general conscience. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in every 68 American children has some form of autism.

Even in the technologically and scientifically-minded 21st century, what autism actually is remains a mystery to many people. According to Autism Speaks, autism can be characterized by "difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors." Such qualities are often difficult to pinpoint because they are so open and non-specific.

Research conducted by the CDC indicates trends in the rise in occurrences of autism. Gottlieb's Best Boy is an important story that shows an older person navigating his autism. Thankfully, contemporary literature also gives us some wonderful works about children first encountering their autistic differences. Because Best Boy is told from an adult's point of view, I thought it would be interesting to cover the spectrum and suggest titles about children with autism. Below is a list of five middle grade and YA novels featuring young characters who are affected by autism, or, specifically, Asperger syndrome.

Marcelo in the Real WorldMarcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

17-year-old Marcelo Sandoval likes religion, music, and nature. He goes to a special school with other kids who are like him. Well, he did. Marcelo's father takes his son away from his comfort zone and tosses him into a job at his law office. Marcelo's transplant into the "real world" is initially terrifying. Marcelo in the Real World is a story about learning to deal with our differences while still holding on to our true selves.

Rain ReignRain Reign by Ann M. Martin

The young Rose Howard is different. She sticks to her own sets of rules and guides. Everyone – her dad, her teachers, and her peers – struggles to understand how Rose operates. One of her greatest quirks is her obsession with homonyms. Playing on her own enjoyment, she names a lost dog that her father brings home Rain Reign. A storm soon hits Rose's hometown, and Rain goes missing. Rose's story will, simultaneously, touch your heart and make you laugh.

Al Capone Does My ShirtsAl Capone Does my Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

Twelve-year-old Moose Flanagan doesn't have autism, but his younger sister, Natalie, does. Now living on Alcatraz Island, Moose wants nothing more than to play baseball and find new friends – if only Natalie were not around, he could do these things. At least that's what he thinks. Moose soon realizes that Natalie's constant tantrums and needs are things that she can't control. This is the story of a young boy growing into a caring and responsible teenager.

Colin FischerColin Fischer by Ashley Edward Miller and Zach Stentz

Colin Fischer deals with bullies on a daily basis at his high school. He's a different kid, who doesn't understand facial expressions or the feelings of various emotions. He's also someone who is full of surprises. A gun goes off in the cafeteria, and the main suspect is Colin's meanest bully. Displaying compassion that is nearly unrivaled, Colin sets out to prove his harasser's innocence.

MockingbirdMockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

Devon was the perfect brother before he was killed. Now, with her father being too devastated to help and her mother dead, too, Caitlin feels like she is truly alone, both in the world and in understanding her Asperger syndrome. Caitlin's beautiful journey is about connecting, understanding, and finding her place.

Filed under Reading Lists

Article by Bradley Sides

This "beyond the book article" relates to Best Boy. It originally ran in September 2015 and has been updated for the May 2016 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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