Kids Like Us by Hilary Reyl (review)
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Reviewed by
Reyl, Hilary Kids Like Us. Farrar, 2017 [288p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-374-30628-1 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-374-30630-4 $9.99
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 7-10

With his beloved father in prison for financial misdealing, Martin and his sister join their film-director mother on location in Chenonceaux, France, where Martin, on the high-functioning side of the autistic spectrum, will attend a local high school, purely for socialization purposes and to practice his French. A fan of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, he is immediately smitten with a girl he takes for Proust’s Gilberte, but she and the other friends he makes turn out to be what his neuro-diverse friend from home calls “moths”—people attracted to the glittering light of his mother’s fame. Martin is hurt, but his own experiences with having a brain that doesn’t work like other people’s allow him to accept his vulnerability and their flaws, and to create new stories about how to reach outside the bubble of his own mind. He responds with the kind of book-learned and socially practiced empathy that he grants himself and receives from those who aren’t trying to change him. Martin’s been deeply loved if not always understood, and his memories, thought processes, and discussions inspire the kinds of productive reimagining that makes calls for inclusive neurocosmopolitanism more than wishful thinking; the book’s indebtedness to Proust goes beyond lyrical phrases to a thematic embrace of the slow savoring of the richness of human experience. In the end, however, it is Martin’s ability to move beyond “things past” to the possibilities that open up when you accept yourself and others that gives this wise story its resonance.

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