Diversity, Fiction, Loved-it

Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik A wonderful #diverse book about siblings, trust and friendship

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★★★★✮  4.5 stars

If you read my blog, you probably know that I choose YA books quite rarely. I mean, the premise has to be pretty special for me to do it.

But this one just had it.

And I wasn’t wrong.

How can I sum this book up? It brought me all sorts of emotions from the very first page. Very readable, very relatable – even though you might not have quite the life the main character has.

In short? Chloe is quite a popular teen. You’d easily mix her up with those air-headed dolls who are most commonly popular, she even has the hot jock boyfriend to prove it. But it’s not quite like that. Because although Chloe comes across as such, and maybe tries to pose as one, she has a big soul. It’s mostly because she has a sister she’s quite close to – Ivy. And Ivy is on the autistic spectrum. With a sister that’s quite different from everyone else, Chloe has to be a special human being herself. Because first of all, it’s not easy to be close to someone like that. Second, taking care of Ivy and making her life better is no easy task and demands a lot of care and attention on Chloe’s part.

Noticing that Ivy’s lonely, Chloe sets out on a quite crazy escapade – trying to set her up with one of her (also autistic) classmates. As she has to take and accompany Ivy on her dates, Chloe ends up being put together with Ethan’s (the date’s) brother, who just so happens to be Chloe’s most hated classmate.

All of this really does sound like a simple YA romance, doesn’t it?

Except it’s not.

Let me bring out some of the points I loved best:

  1. Such great representation of autism. I loved getting to know Ivy and Ethan. Having only had limited and quite negative contact in the past, I can’t say I thought of autistic people too well. This book gave me a new perspective. Told me what it’s all about. Showed me that as strangers, we can only ever see the bad sides, because you pretty much have to be a VIP to see the good sides, they’re not for everybody. More than that – it helped me understand that autistic people are not oblivious (we tend to think that a lot, don’t we?) They do know they’re different. It hurts them if we don’t treat them with respect – with respect to who they are – different, but still human, still warm and loving, breathing and understanding.
  2. The book is more diverse than it seems already! If I say anything more, I’ll spoil. But let’s just say you might be surprised. And again, tough situation – great representation. I was impressed.
  3. The main running themes are friendship, sister/brotherhood, tough family situations, understanding different people. Those are all such very good themes.
  4. So it’s in-part about teen romance. But the romance is so totally backseat, it won’t bother you even if you’re like me and tend to avoid reading about it.

If you’re still not convinced, have a quote:

“You know, if we were pushing our siblings in wheelchairs, people would be nice to them and to us. They’d be like, Oh, the poor handicapped people and their wonderful siblings! Let’s hold doors for them! But Ivy and Ethan… they basically look like everyone else, with just these tiny differences in how they behave and move. And that bugs people.”

To sum it up, I’m glad I picked up this YA book. This is the good kind (I have had my experiences with too many bad YA books in the past). Books like this SHOULD be read by teens, the more the better. Books like this educate them in a very accessible way.

I am very thankful to Claire LaZebnik and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for giving me a copy of this book prior to it being published (opinions are not influenced by this and are my own). This was a really great read and I truly recommend it. You can grab it here on Book Depository if you’re interested.

Have you read or heard of Things I Should Have Known? Do you like reading diverse books like that? And have you any similar recs?