Not the most likely topic for a fiction novel but Jules Smith has pulled off a feat with this book – a tender, raw, no holes barred story of a mother struggling to hold onto her family and sanity amidst the chaotic world of her teenage son diagnosed with Aspergers and PDA.
Written in the first person, from Sophie’s (the mother) viewpoint, this only heightens the immediacy of the narration and the reader is brought smack into the middle of the family’s lives. From the first sentence I was hooked, pulled into Sophie’s hectic, confusing world with demands from all sides shaking her (and the reader) to the core.
Brendon, her seventeen-year-old son, diagnosed with Aspergers and PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance) is at the heart of the story. His verbal and frank comments cause understandable ruptures at school and home. Whilst his father flees from what he sees as his son’s intransigent behaviour, Sophie remains her son’s stalwart parent, friend and supporter. Not only does she fight for him at every possible moment, she relentlessly tries to ensure her younger daughter, Bryony, receives the attention she so desperately needs as well as retaining her work as an writer for an interiors magazine.
Sophie’s lifeline is her work, which she loves and her colleagues provide her with normality in her Aspergers centred world. However, as her son’s situation deteriorates even this rock is threatened.
This book could easily have become didactic and prescriptive about Aspergers however the author has successfully sidestepped this trap. Quickly I warmed and cared for Sophie, Brendon and Bryony. Whilst so much of his behaviour is appalling, like Sophie I could understand more of the illness and recognise the validity of some of Brendon’s keenly observed remarks and outbursts.
‘He had a point. I found the way he thought refreshing and challenging.’
The dichotomy within Brendon – almost a Jekyll and Hyde personality – is a struggle for Sophie, as at one moment he is a kind considerate son, the next he pushes her to the end of her tether.
‘Brendon had a keen sense of right and wrong which was amazing since he couldn’t apply it to himself.’
Can the diversion of an online scrabble game provide Sophie with the love and support she desperately needs as she messages ‘The Voice’ in California? Her fantasy is just beginning to get carried away…or does romance lie much closer to home in the form of her understanding boss, Colin…
Unexpectedly this book was an instant hit with me, the writing flows with ease and sparkles with warmth and humour interspersed with fast-paced dialogue. The characters are wonderfully sketched and Sophie’s heart-felt and honest narration allows us to view not only her life but that of her son’s and daughter’s as well as that of their friends and teachers.
Personally I have two minor reservations about the book. Firstly, the title. I just don’t think it works – but don’t let this stop you reading it!
Secondly for me the book finished abruptly. There was no ‘signposting’ of the end and I kept pressing my ‘next page’ button on my kindle in frustration wanting to read on…maybe this just show how much I had become caught up in the story…but I did want more of a resolution, conclusion. However, I would in no way let this detract from what is overall a highly rewarding and uplifting read.
Released only two weeks ago this is a book I can highly recommend.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Price: £ 2.99 Kindle
£ 9.99 paperback (amazon)
Book Release: 3rd April 2016
Publisher: Troubador Publishing
I reviewed this book on behalf of NetGalley.