Written by John Elder Robison as a series of short stories from his childhood and meant to give the reader a peek into the Aspergian mind, this book is a mix of memoir, education, mental health, and even self help.
Originally published: U.S. March 22, 2011
Blurbed by Temple Grandin and Mark Roithmayr (president of Autism Speaks) and sporting a beautiful cover, be different draws the audience in and prepares them for some quirky fun as they learn more about Aspergers, a form of autism.
When I requested, and was subsequently sent, this book for review from Blogging for Books, i was expecting something that looked more into the technical bits of Aspergian life. I saw that it was a series of advice/short stories and was honestly expecting to see articles, anecdotes from other Aspies (Robison’s word for those diagnosed with Aspergers), and maybe even some notes from a teacher or two. However, this book was not at all what I expected. While I was looking for the ‘advice’ part promised to me in the title, what most of the book entails is actually the other part, the part where he details his own adventures with Asperger’s. Except Mr. Robison was not diagnosed until his 40s. Which means that the stories we get in this book are actually told to us as an acknowledged Aspergian looks back at his childhood and discusses what happened in the light of having NOT KNOWN he was Aspergian. Sound confusing? It isn’t really.
What Mr. Robison does well in this book is, among other things, detailing what he did and what happened to him and then spending a sentence or two describing whether that was or was not a good way to handle it in the light of Aspergers.
The writing style is fairly clear and well done. The stories are mostly memoir with very little advice thrown in until the final chapter, but the advice seems like something most people can easily discern without explicit directions. (Unless you’re one of those Aspergians who NEEDS explicit directions. Hmm…)
However, Mr. Robison only mentions females as ‘girls’ to be learned about, feared, and, hopefully, dated. The only instance of women otherwise mentioned (besides offhand mentions of his mother) were of Little Bear, his son Cubby’s mother. She also has Aspergers…but he offers no advice or comments TO females. In fact, all of his stories and advice is written with an obvious slant to males. While this is understandable since he is, in fact, a male, AND the advice is applicable to both genders, someone with autism might not feel they ‘belong in/reading’ a book that doesn’t mention their gender. As someone dealing with a form of autism, I felt that he should have known and dealt with that at some point. He is also very self involved, which is typical for Aspergians and comes across well. I haven’t decided, and likely never will agree with myself, on whether this is frustrating, annoying, and a poor writing choice (especially in the times when he completely condones physical violence and leaving schools) or if it is necessary.
On the whole, I found this book to be well written and interesting. Though I would have liked more advice and possibly less repetition on the themes, I feel like this is a solid book for helping teen Aspies, Prot-Aspies (people with traits but not full on Aspergers) and Nypicals (neuro-typical or non-autistic people) understand how to handle their side of the spectrum and possibly how to help others.
I am rating this book a 3.5 out of 5 stars.