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


netgalleyI reviewed this book on behalf of NetGalley. 



  1. Interesting, not heard of this book before but will give it a read and share around the PDA families. It would be interesting to see if the book is true to life. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you for reading the review and commenting. I would be very interested to see what your friends make of the book – having no personal experiences of the issues involved I wonder how true a picture Jules Smith paints.

  2. Ahh…at long last dear Annika, I am here, reading your review as promised! And I can definitely see what you mean about it, your review has me heading to the Kindle store right away, thank you so much for this. I can see what you mean about the title, although obviously I haven’t read the book, but I actually thought that as soon as I saw it, it seems a bit awkward to me. And that’s a shame about the ending. But you convince me to read this book, and I think it will also help me as I think about the way I want to push forward with writing about Aspergers and family life. Perhaps writing fiction is a way forward, or a series of flash stories. I’ve not heard of PDA, now I want to look it up, and will ask my daughter about it too. Lovely to ‘see’ you again. Big hugs to you my friend 🙂 ❤ xxx

    1. Sherri, thank you so much for your lovely comment. 😀 You must tell me what you think of the book afterwards!! That’s an order!! I’d never heard of PDA before and am not too sure what I think about it, not knowing much on the subject to start with so again I’ll be interested to hear your opinion. I love your idea of writing your own fiction book on the subject – that would be brilliant!! Hugs to you, Sherri! ♥️

      1. Haha…order duly noted! Yes, I most certainly will Annika. I’m very curious to find out more about PDA. And thank you as always for your wonderful encouragement. Hugs back to you!! ❤ xxx

    1. Thank you, Julie and so happy you liked the review. I know, I too have so many books I want to read…it was great with a holiday where I had hours a day to do just that – read! Such a treat.

  3. Wonderful review! Yes, I knew somebody who’s son has Aspergers and it was hard to watch. It’s like they had to reinvent how to communicate and to discipline and even complimenting him you felt like he just doesn’t get it. Maybe reading this will leave me with a better feeling about Aspergers. Thx jc

    1. I don’t know if the book will leave you feeling better about Aspergers, JC but it will definitely make you more understanding of the condition and the effect it has on everyone, including the person who has the condition. A blogger friend’s child has Aspergers and this is why I particularly choose this book from NetGalley as I wanted to get a grasp for her and what her family are going through on a daily basis.

  4. This sounds like a very powerful book. I have some experience working with kids with Aspergers and Autism as I work as a substitute teacher and have been in the special needs classrooms a few times this year. What a demanding, incredible responsibility that parents of these kiddos face on a daily basis.

    1. You hit the nail on the head there – that this life for Sophie ison a daily basis with barely any moments of reprieve for herself. Even so she showed a great sense of humour and clarity of thought. What an interesting job working with children with Autism and Aspergers – I would love to know your more about your experience. I would imagine it as both rewarding and exhausting. Have you ever written a post about your work with them?

      1. She sounds like quite a special woman. I have only been in a few special needs classes this year. If I end up in more, I may write about it. Most of the time I am in high school which is where I love being, sullen teenagers and all 🙂

    1. Whereas I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending the previous book I reviewed universally I totally understand this is one to personal taste – not one my husband would read either for example. The patience and energy of Sophie is inspiring though.

  5. This sounds like non-fiction, but an Amazon search says it’s fiction. It reminds me of one I read–Boy in the Moon–about a family coping with a disabled child. I read a lot of books like this when my son was young, trying to figure him out! He was challenging, but not like this.

    Sounds like an inspiring story.

    1. I was the same, Jacqui when I started to read the book thinking it was based on an actual life and having to check in the blurb, which is why I mentioned it being fiction in the first paragraph. It is definitely an inspiring book and also had me in awe of Sophie for her patience and energy – although there were lots of comic moments when she lost the plot! I’ve never heard of Boy in the Moon but will check it out. I hope it helped you understand your son…I find that just when I think I have everything sorted regarding my son the goalposts change…teenagers and all that I suppose.

      1. The patience in dealing with kids who think differently–that, I got from Boy in the Moon. Also from Daniel Tammet’s Born on a Blue Day. These unique individuals see solutions we never dreamt of. Probably the most helpful book I read was The Man Who Thought His Wife Was a Hat, about the complicated processes that occur in the brasin and what happens when one breaks down.

        1. I read the Oliver Sacks books years ago and more recently and it one of the definitive books on the subjects showing us how such every objects and events can become unfathomable or misread. His compassion for his patience is extraordinary and the book accessible for everyone. I’m off to look at the other book you mention as well…thank you for the tip. Hope you’re having a lovely Saturday.

  6. Anonymous

    Interesting and informative book review Annika. A difficult subject which is obviously handled well, but I for one like there to be at least some resolution at the end of a book. I must admit that I don’t know if I could cope with the subject matter.


    1. Thank you, Mike. As the book is fiction the subject matter is very much part of the story as a whole and realistic how chaotic life became for Sophie. Probably something we can all identify with whatever the cause of the disruption in our lives. It was also full of love, patience and humour so a very easy and warm read. Give it a go, perhaps?

  7. Great review, Annika. The book sounds intriguing, though I have to admit, it doesn’t sound like a relaxing read 🙂 It certainly says something about the heroes of daily life who live with mental health challenges every day. The power or love! Thanks for the recommendation.

    1. No, Diana, I must admit I became quite stressed alongside Sophie and her family in this book – she has the patience of a saint, especially compared to her wimp out of a husband! An easy fast read touching on a very serious topic.

    1. Jill, it’s definitely an unusual subject for a fiction book but the author keeps the writing easy, quick paced and accessible so it works well. I felt guilty yesterday about mentioning the end so I reread it last night again to make sure I wasn’t nitpicking but I still feel the same alas. It didn’t just feel finished and for a while I wondered if perhaps the complete book hadn’t been downloaded!

  8. delphini510

    Yet again a heartfelt review Annika. I can feel Sophie’s love and struggle to
    be there – to be all – for both her children and yet retain some space for
    herself via her work. A hectic and demanding role.
    I would imagine this book keeps your emotions swinging between highs and lows.
    Will get this for next break and also see how the “resolution” (lack of) works.
    Thank you.

    1. I find this a book many could identify with but obviously Sophie’s life is one of extreme emotional and practical struggles. Her love and patience shines through and every time she did get a few hours to herself I was cheering along! As the book was so fast-paced and full of humour my personal emotional swings weren’t too great but it was highly engaging. Let me know what you think of it – particularly of the ending.

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