music, moths, + madeleines // kids like us by hilary reyl #bookreview

photo by moi.

When you are not by yourself being confused is a whole different thing. It's not lonely anymore. Once there's more than one outsider, there aren't really any outsiders. - Kids Like Us by Hilary Reyl

From the first sentence, Yesterday, you, Mom, and Elisabeth landed in Paris, France, of Kids Like Us by Hilary Reyl, you are thrust into the mind of Martin, an autistic sixteen-year-old spending his summer in the French countryside. He misses his friends in Los Angeles and his father, and he finds it impossible to fit into this world of general-ed schooling until he meets ‘Gilberte’, a girl from a novel by Proust, a novel that’s taught him much about life, but perhaps she’s not really Gilberte and perhaps he isn’t as much like Marcel (from Proust’s novel) as he thought.

Martin isn’t the stereotypical autistic character: he’s interested in cooking, literature, and music, and he tries very hard to relate to the people around him. I enjoyed learning about the different therapies and strategies he used, and I also just enjoyed Martin’s narration of the world around him. Yes, the story is slightly slow and quite detailed and, yes, you can argue that not a lot actually happens, but I appreciated the subtle characterisations, descriptions, and commentary. (Like how Martin’s pronouns change; I think it’s dependent on how comfortable he is in a situation or something, but I found that kind of attention to detail cool.) Martin’s autism and anxiety make him feel very apart from the world, but I felt very close to this story, which I think comes down to talented writing more than anything else.

Kids Like Us, however, wasn’t a perfect read for me. Firstly, I felt the book shied away from the deeper topics surrounding Martin’s autism and why they (especially his mother) were so fixated on making him normal rather than working to understand him and changing their lives to accommodate his differences. Realistically, this probably happens a lot, though, but I felt like the story was setting up to discuss these topics then just didn’t. Also, I saw one plot twist, which I personally think is overused, coming a mile away. I would have loved this novel to be longer (but I say that about every book I love) so I could spend much more time with with Elisabeth and Arthur, Layla, Simon and Alice and learn more about their characters.

Personally I don’t have much experience or knowledge regarding autism, but I found Kids Like Us by Hilary Reyl to offer a unique, emotional perspective on life and being yourself involving madeleines, music, and moths.

Disclaimer: I received this novel from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. Any thoughts/opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


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