“The State of Grace” the new young adult fiction book by Rachael Lucas, is a terrific read. It should be compulsory reading in every secondary school. The heroine, Grace, is pretty much your average teenager, except she has Aspergers. She draws you immediately into her world and I was hooked from the first page. In Grace’s unique way, she absolutely hits the nail on the head with descriptions such as these:
“Sometimes I feel like everyone else was handed a copy of the rules for life and mine got lost.”
“I speak human as a second language.”
“It’s like living with all your senses turned up to full volume all the time.”
“It’s like living life in a different language, so you can’t ever quite relax because even when you think you’re fluent it’s still using a different part of your brain so by the end of the day you’re exhausted.”
“It’s like there’s a game of Jenga going on in my head and I never know what’s going to make everything fall apart.”
The plot is standard teen-fic stuff: best friends, boys, parties, parents, all seen through Grace’s eyes. Things go heartbreakingly wrong in typical teenage fashion, and then are resolved. I think it will really help some teenage girls with Aspergers, and Grace’s character will really resonate with them. But only some. My teenage days are now thankfully nearly 30 years behind me, and at the time I had no idea I was autistic. I was nothing like Grace, and even if I had met a girl like Grace I don’t think we would have got on. Her main special interests are horses and Dr Who, neither of which I have ever cared for in the slightest. Autistic people are all different, and I was a very odd teenager. My interests at 15/16 were playing the piano, doing my absolute best at school, Christianity and gender-nonconforming pop stars. I didn’t have a single friend my own age. I was probably what you would now call a selective mute around people my age. I only really talked to adults I trusted, and even then not a lot. Grace in many ways is a very lucky young lady: she has a best friend, a boyfriend, a horse, and an ultra-normal, supportive family, things that many of us can only dream about in our teens. She is articulate in a way I never was. Looking back, a lot of the areas of life that Grace struggles with, I did too, but it was never talked about and I would never have been able to put into words what I was feeling at that time.
I’m quite glad I wasn’t a teenager like Grace. I wouldn’t have enjoyed going to parties and hanging out with boys on skateboards, and I’m grateful now that I didn’t waste my teenage years in this way. I feel sorry for her mum’s friend Eve, to whom Grace is pretty rude. I don’t think her behaviour was acceptable, even if she was having a meltdown and did say sorry afterwards. Why is her mum not allowed her fun while her dad is away for work? Grace seems quite self-obsessed – maybe all teenagers are now, more so than in my day. In her favour, she does have a love of animals, a love of sameness and routine, and a great relationship with her Grandma that I could relate to.
The best part of the book for me was “Grace’s 10 Things” on the back 2 pages, things everyone should know about autistic people. I could print off that list and hand it to people I meet, it would save me a lot of explaining!
I’m going to buy the book for my 15 year old niece. She would probably be a far better reviewer of it than me, being of the right age group and horse-obsessed. Whether or not my niece has Aspergers, which is unsure at present, she certainly has a lot of the traits and I think this book will help her and many others, so thank you so much Rachael Lucas for writing it!