Happy Friday, kids! April is Autism Pride Month, so I’d like to feature some of my TBR picks written by autistic authors. Even though this is a pretty typical size for my TBR posts ― I usually feature about 4 or 5 books each time ― this list is not nearly as full or as diverse as I’d like it to be, so I’ve asked for some book recommendations at the bottom of the page. Please help me make my TBR big enough to reach the moon!
(Full disclosure: I’m neurodivergent, but I’m not autistic, so I am most definitely not an #ownvoices reviewer when it comes to stories about autistic characters. I know I always need to do a better job of identifying and reading #ownvoices reviews, so I wanted to make that crystal clear.)
All right…are you ready to add some awesome titles to your TBR?
White Stag by Kara Barbieri; cover designed by Devan Norman
As the last child in a family of daughters, seventeen-year-old Janneke was raised to be the male heir. While her sisters were becoming wives and mothers, she was taught to hunt, track, and fight. On the day her village was burned to the ground, Janneke ― as the only survivor ― was taken captive by the malicious Lydian and eventually sent to work for his nephew Soren.
Janneke’s survival in the court of merciless monsters has come at the cost of her connection to the human world. And when the Goblin King’s death ignites an ancient hunt for the next king, Soren senses an opportunity for her to finally fully accept the ways of the brutal Permafrost. But every action he takes to bring her deeper into his world only shows him that a little humanity isn’t bad ― especially when it comes to those you care about.
Through every battle they survive, Janneke’s loyalty to Soren deepens. After dangerous truths are revealed, Janneke must choose between holding on or letting go of her last connections to a world she no longer belongs to. She must make the right choice to save the only thing keeping both worlds from crumbling.
Between “youngest daughter raised as the male heir” and “Goblin King,” I had no choice but to throw this on top of my ever-growing TBR. And I’m a sucker for a great cover, so I was completely powerless against this book.
On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis; cover illustrated by Shane Rebenschied and designed by Chad W. Beckerman
January 29, 2035. That’s the day the comet is scheduled to hit — the big one. Denise and her mother and sister, Iris, have been assigned to a temporary shelter outside their hometown of Amsterdam to wait out the blast, but Iris is nowhere to be found, and at the rate Denise’s drug-addicted mother is going, they’ll never reach the shelter in time. A last-minute meeting leads them to something better than a temporary shelter — a generation ship, scheduled to leave Earth behind to colonize new worlds after the comet hits. But everyone on the ship has been chosen because of their usefulness. Denise is autistic and fears that she’ll never be allowed to stay. Can she obtain a spot before the ship takes flight? What about her mother and sister? When the future of the human race is at stake, whose lives matter most?
(Speaking of #ownvoices…Corinne Duyvis was the originator of that hashtag!)
The ableist view of “usefulness” is one that needs to be challenged from all angles, and I’m excited to read Duyvis’s take on it. I think I’m going to have to prepare myself quite a bit for this one, given its emotionally and psychologically heavy central question — “whose lives matter most?” — so I’m not sure when I’ll be able to read this book. But as anyone with a TBR knows, especially my fellow book bloggers, the same can be said for every book I’ve ever featured in one of these posts: Will I read it next week or next decade? Stay tuned to find out!
Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee; cover illustrated by Vivienne To and designed by Tyler Nevins
Thirteen-year-old Min comes from a long line of fox spirits. But you’d never know it by looking at her. To keep the family safe, Min’s mother insists that none of them use any fox-magic, such as Charm or shape-shifting. They must appear human at all times.
Min feels hemmed in by the household rules and resents the endless chores, the cousins who crowd her, and the aunties who judge her. She would like nothing more than to escape Jinju, her neglected, dust-ridden, and impoverished planet. She’s counting the days until she can follow her older brother, Jun, into the Space Forces and see more of the Thousand Worlds.
When word arrives that Jun is suspected of leaving his post to go in search of the Dragon Pearl, Min knows that something is wrong. Jun would never desert his battle cruiser, even for a mystical object rumored to have tremendous power. She decides to run away to find him and clear his name.
Min’s quest will have her meeting gamblers, pirates, and vengeful ghosts. It will involve deception, lies, and sabotage. She will be forced to use more fox-magic than ever before, and to rely on all of her cleverness and bravery. The outcome may not be what she had hoped, but it has the potential to exceed her wildest dreams.
I actually just got this title as part of a book box shipment, and I was thrilled when I found out that I would be able to include it as part of my focus on autistic authors. It’s been on my TBR for a while, because (a) FOX-MAGIC and (b) I’m obsessed with the Rick Riordan Presents imprint. They publish phenomenal stories from a diverse group of authors, and I fall in love with them more every day.
Nothing Without Us edited by Cait Gordon and Talia Johnson; cover designed by Nathan Caro Fréchette
An own-voices, multi-genre fiction anthology with heroes who are disabled, neurodiverse, Deaf, and/or manage mental illnesses and/or chronic conditions.
For the most part, people who are disabled, Deaf, neurodiverse, Spoonie, and/or who manage mental illness are faced with stories about us that are crafted by people who really don’t get us.
Nothing Without Us combines both realistic and speculative fiction and stars protagonists who are written by us and for us. These are bold tales, told in our voices, which are important for everyone to experience.
Okay, I’m cheating with this entry: it’s not kidlit. I was just so excited to find this anthology while researching this post that I had to fudge the rules a bit. Seeing so many diverse #ownvoices creators in one place is thrilling, and I’m eager to read stories that reflect the parts of my life that I don’t often see in fiction (or, if I do see them, I don’t often see them handled well). I’m not sure that this is an exhaustive list, but the autistic creators featured in the anthology include Jennifer Lee Rossman, Elliott Dunstan, and editor Talia Johnson. This Kickstarter campaign has been fully funded, but it still has stretch goals to reach by April 30, so if you’re interested in supporting some independent creators go check it out here. And please forgive my cheating!
You may have noticed a trend: the only kidlit books on this list are YA sci-fi. While I love me some YA and some sci-fi, I am hereby requesting your help in finding a wider range of spooky kidlit books to read from autistic authors. Note: I’m not putting the onus on autistic people to do my research for me, here. I plan to keep searching for great titles on my own. What I am doing, though, is asking my lovely readers to hit me up with some book recommendations! Do you know of any autistic authors writing spooky stories for kids? I’d love to hear about them! And as always, if you’re ever unsure as to what “spooky” means, check out my FAQ to get a feel for what I like to review.
Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!