Autism Runs Away – Sharon Mitchell
So I reviewed the first book in this series Autism goes to School and whilst I enjoyed the concept of the books, autism advice merged with fiction, I took issue with the inconsistency and unlikeable characters. With that in mind, I read the second one in the series to see if anything had improved.
It did not get off to a good start. This story seems to focus on Ellie, the sister of the first book’s protagonist Ben. Now bearing in mind that she has spent the last approximately 12 months+ in this fictional universe not only helping with her autistic nephew, but also interacting with “wonder teacher” Mel who is now her sister-in-law, and spending most work days with autistic employee, Jeff…the way she reacts to situations involving autism at the beginning of this book are completely unrealistic compared to her behaviour in the first book and even later in this book. Essentially she is temporarily positioned as an ignorant, abrasive, and intrusive person purely so that we can see the same tired “autism professional” power fantasy be played out but with a new teacher – except this time the teacher is male…are you beginning to see a familiar (love story related) pattern developing?
New teacher Rob is even stroppier than Mel was, and downright rude and unprofessional. Of course Ellie is played up as an ignorant bumbling idiot so we’re supposed to think this unprofessionalism is acceptable. It’s not. There’s very little mention of the character who’s meant to be the focus of this book, Ethan and his mother, although there is plenty of unprofessional glaring from Rob at mum’s fears that Ethan won’t be allowed to return to school. There is also some autism stuff that I am less enamoured with than the advice in the first book (which was a big saving grace for that novel). There’s sections where children are expected to talk (again no mention of AAC), and comments about still needing to get eye contact, and really patrionising sections like the one below:
He greeted Ethan with a, “Hey, bud. Nice to see you”, and a raised hand ready for a high five. To his satisfaction, Ethan met is hand, even if his eyes did not glance his way. As always, Rob marveled at how this could happen, a kid accurately place his hand without his eyes obviously following the progress of the end of his arm. But, it happened. Rob himself was neither that skilled nor that coordinated and knew his high five would look ore like a flail if he tried that way.
Peripheral vision is not so alien that any teacher would consider it “skilled” in such a hyperbolic manner. Then, once again, when the love story starts to emerge the author backtracks with sections of “I misjudged her” and trying to make the characters more likeable. It works about as well as it did in the first book. The one thing I did like though is the brief step away from the tone of “autism teachers are so amazing” when Rob meets Jeff and finds that whilst he might think he’s really good with autistic children, he has no idea what to do with an autistic man. But Ellie does – because she treats him as her friend who is autistic, and not just an autistic man. So that was nice. I like the character of Jeff – I see traits of myself in him and he is well written, his extra scene time in this book is a huge plus.
The scenes with Jeff have this weird promotional tone to them where the author has added in the use of the ‘Registered ®’ symbol and hyperlinks. This is both really weird and awkward to read in dialogue, and poor practice for a fictional book. If the author wanted to bring attention to the free programs/operating systems then they should have been added at the end – not info dumped in conversation because it just ends up being horribly stilted and awkward to read.
As I mentioned earlier, there isn’t really much involvement of the autistic child in this story – although Ethan does have his plot twist moment at the end of the book, and teacher Rob gets to be the hero and so on and so forth. The end.
Not as much as the first one – there’s less about the autistic child here, although we do get extra page time from Jeff which is always a bonus.
Value for money?
I think it’s still free on Kindle Unlimited – and if it’s not then the digital version is £2.49 which isn’t a huge price, even if there’s huge chunks I don’t agree with.