By: Jennifer Gold
Published Year: 2017
Publisher: Second Story Press
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way shape or form influenced my opinion.
Summary (Provided by Goodreads): Growing up in the shadow of a famous mother, Clara has never felt good about her body. Now, at sixteen, she has an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. After a social media disaster, she decides to escape for the summer to Paris to stay with her estranged dad and her six-year-old brother, Alastair, who is on the autism spectrum. Charged with his care, Clara and Alastair set out to explore the city. Paris teaches Clara about first love and gives her a new love of food. And Alastair teaches Clara about patience, trust and the beauty of loving without judgment.
As a speech pathologist, I work with children who are on the Autism spectrum. I am often a bit critical of books that have children who are on the spectrum as they follow a lot of clichés and not necessarily truthful behaviors. However, the cover and the summary of this book caught my eye. In the summer I love to read books that take place elsewhere and this seemed like a unique twist.
What I thought
When Clara, the daughter of a prima ballerina, is accused of having an eating disorder, her mother decides that it might be good for her to spend in the summer in Paris with his wife and son (her half-brother). While neither Clara nor her mom think that she truly has a disorder, her mom is worried that she isn’t being a good parent and feels like since she has never truly spent time with her father or his family, that this would be a good time to do so. Alastair, Clara’s 6 year old half-brother, is also on the Autism spectrum.
This book was a truly enjoyable and easy read. Like, finished in a few hours easy read. I didn’t realize when I picked up this book that there were going to be ties to dancing and eating disorders as well as the Autism connections. As a dancer, I always connect easily with dance story lines, but I haven’t read a book with a character whose mother is a dancer but they personally do not dance. It was a very interesting dynamic.
At the beginning of the book, I was a bit worried Clara was going to be a terrible person. She has a bit of an attitude and it very concerned about social status as well as what she looks like and what she eats. However, as the book continues you learn that she is a good person at her core, but that she just has an illness that has a strong hold over her. I always feel like characters who get the opportunity to go to a different country for the summer and are angry about it are spoiled (I would have jumped at the chance) but Clara doesn’t take any of that attitude, and while she is a bit reluctant at first, she immediately embraces the experience which is great.
I also truly appreciated that they didn’t claim that Alastair had Autism. They referred to him as only being “on the spectrum” and also as not having a neurotypical brain. Part of the reason I appreciated this is because there is such a wide range of personalities and behaviors that truly are on the spectrum that never get mentioned. It is only ever the extremes. There are a lot of children who don’t have an official diagnosis of “Autism” but still exhibit Autism like behaviors, hence the “spectrum”. The character of Alastair was an absolute delight and I loved every scene that he was in.
Truthfully, I wish this book was longer. I feel like it only just started to scratch the surface of Clara dealing with her disorder as well as finding herself. I would love to read a sequel to this book and find out how Clara is dealing, especially once she goes back home to her mom. There is also a little bit of romance, but it’s not a central story line.