What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum ; Young Adult, 5 Stars
When I began reading this book and realized it was about a gifted, apparently-on-the-spectrum guy and a gifted girl without neuro-issues, I felt a bit of ‘oh, another one? are guys with Asperger’s sadly becoming the new trope that girls sigh over?’ and felt a bit disgusted and a bit bored and almost stopped listening.
But it’s not. It’s not ‘just another one of those books.’ By the end I had revised every negatively cautious thought I’d had and gave it five stars.
Kit’s father died in car accident; her mom is in denial about everything; Kit is numb and just doesn’t know why she’s doing it but suddenly a few weeks later, in lunch, she ignores her bubbly, talkative, also-uber-sympathetic friends because she just can’t even.
KIT:I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they? I don’t even understand.
She sits down by David Drucker, the insanely smart weird guy, because she figures he won’t talk to her. He wears headphones all the time and he doesn’t talk to anybody.
He has no filters.
He says things nobody else would say.
DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her.
And that flat, brutal truth… feels unexpectedly comfortable. And she decides this–spending lunches beside David Drucker who is mostly silent but without guile or helpless attempts to comfort is a comfortable place to be right now.
This book is desi*; Kit’s mother is Indian and her father was Anglo. She is aware that her skin is lighter brown than her mom’s, as is her hair. She has certain thoughts about it, and also how other people can be annoying in the ways they react to this, especially reacting to her mother who is beautiful and also extremely successful.
Kit’s the result of an American marrying a first generation Indian woman, with grandparents from Delhi. Author Julie Buxbaum‘s husband is British and his grandparents also are from the Delhi area. Julie is American. In her touching author’s note she addresses several aspects of writing this book, including the fact that when her children are older she will be able to give them a book with characters that look like them.
What to Say Next has all the warmth, the humor, and the angst it needs to tell a story of two kids locked in separate, private pains finding an unexpected way through together. Highly recommended.
* desi is described here on wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desi
I give this link not ‘in spite of’ the disclaimer it has at the top, but because of it: The neutrality of this article is questioned because it may show systemic bias. In particular, there may be a strong bias in favor of Western cultural values. Please see the discussion on the talk page. Please do not remove this message until the issue is resolved.
As a self-defined dumb white chick I have good intentions but always manage to avoid saying something I know to be objectionable by substituting something else that also is, because I’m just that clueless and ignorant. Also because of my dys-brain, I have trouble retaining and/or recalling the ‘right’ words in any particular situation, whether social or writing a term paper. That complicates it a bit more. So I find discussions like the ones on that wiki page educational, fascinating, and sometimes even the switch that flips on that I’ve needed. That said, I haven’t read it yet. I’m completing this ‘review’ first so I can check it off my list and then am going back to the wiki to read the discussion.
Also, if your opinion and approach to such issues differs from mine, that’s okay. But don’t take this as an opportunity to criticize what you may view negatively as “being pc” and I view as being at the very least, polite, but more importantly, simply being part of this big, tumultuous and beautiful multicultural Dallas/Texas/America/world I live in.