Review: On the Spectrum by Jennifer Gold

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There are a couple of signs that a book really WOWED me.  If I finish it within a couple of days, it’s a given.  But, whenever I feel compelled to immediately write a review, well then you can be sure it’s a winner.

Clara doesn’t want for much of anything, but her life is anything but easy.  Growing up as the daughter of a famous ballet dancer has put enormous pressure on her going back as far as she can remember.  She’s always felt as if she can’t measure up to her beautiful, graceful, and excessively thin mother.  So it’s no surprise that she’s developed an eating disorder.  Maybe not the binging and purging or wasting away type, but still.  Under the guise of healthy eating, she’s obsessively concerned with everything she puts into her mouth.  And who can blame her?  She’s just following her mother’s example, after all.

When things go too far, however, she finds herself sent off to visit her estranged father for the summer.  Sure, it’s in Paris.  But it also means she has to spend the summer with her stepmother and a brother she doesn’t even know.  To make matters more difficult in her mind, he’s on the autism spectrum.  Will they be able to help each other?

There are so many important things going on in this story, things that almost any young person or adult can relate to.  There’s a nontraditional, blended family as a result of divorce.  There’s a love interest, of course.  Because what young adult story wouldn’t have one?  And then there are the more serious issues, eating disorders and children with autism spectrum  disorders.

This is the rare young adult book that I actually feel safe recommending for truly young adults.  It provides a true look at real issues faced by many young people without delving into the culture of sex, drugs, and alcohol so prominent in many of today’s books marketed toward young people.  A great story!

~Thalia

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