Thirteen year old Leon has been kicked out from six different schools due to what most people see as his attitude problem. When his long-suffering mother takes him to a specialist doctor, Dr Snot, Leon is informed that his brain works differently to most other people and that he is in fact autistic. Not caring for either label, Leon resolves to keep being himself. Why should he change? How could he even if he wanted to? Below is my spoiler free review of the novel.
The novel begins with Leon’s diagnosis and his refusal to accept this. His kind-hearted mother (who he refers to as “Caroline”) works at Blackpool Pleasure Beach and is at her wit’s end regarding how to go forwards. She loves her son but finds his behaviour increasingly difficult to cope with and can’t make him understand that there is a very real threat they will have to relocate if Leon is expelled from his new school, leaving her unemployed.
When Leon arrives at his newest school, he meets Tanya and Lawrence who, like him, have labels, diagnoses, and challenges. Unlike Leon, they accept these and make the most of who and what they are. Despite his reluctance to engage with others and anything which may upset his normal routine, Leon finds himself drawn to Tanya and Lawrence, who accept and like him for who he is. When the school bully humiliates Leon and attacks Lawrence, the three form a club, “The Asparagus Bunch” where they can rant, vent, plot, and laugh with one another using an old funhouse in the back garden as a base. Determined to get revenge on the school bully, Leon is blindsided by unexpected relationship developments much closer to home. It’s during this time he discovers who his true friends are.
I absolutely loved this. It’s not something I’d normally pick up but the title intrigued me. Not being familiar with autism in any way, I found Leon’s story to be both enlightening and refreshing. I really enjoyed seeing how Leon and his friends navigate a world in which they are other and his attempts to gain insight into his diagnosis. I also really liked how the characters’ diagnoses were presented as explanations rather than excuses for their actions. It’s a story that manages to be sweet, moving, frustrating, and very funny. The writing style has events zipping along nicely and it’s a really fresh approach to the the topic. An unexpected gem.
Tales of the Genii (edited by myself) is now available from The Crow Emporium – click here to buy.
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