The Rosie Effect, by Graeme Simsion
Don Tillman loves Rosie Jarmin, and they have been married for almost a year. Their wonderful, unexpected, and hilarious romance unfolded in The Rosie Project, a book I reviewed here and a book I have recommended to many other people. Don Tillman is a genetist, and studies alcoholic mice. He also has Aspergers Syndrome, though he is completely oblivious to that fact. Rosy is study to be an MD, and is Don’s opposite in almost every way. While Don is organized and follows a strict schedule, Rosie is messy and spontanious. Don has trouble making small talk, and needs help with social skills. Rosie is carefree and handles social occasions with less stress and more fun. Yet, somehow together, they make it work. Don and Rosie are living in New York, and Don is working as a visiting professor with Columbia university. Life seems to be going on very well, until one day…Rosie tells Don that she is pregnant.
While Don is shocked, Rosie is clearly off balance as well. She seems determined that she will just continue as she has been. She will work on her thesis, and work at her part-time job, and once the baby is born, maybe take a week off. Don, who freaks out more than a little bit over the news that his wife is in the family way, seems to come to terms with the situation more quickly than Rosie. The issue? Neither member of the couple seems to be able to communicate their thoughts clearly to the other over the whole baby issue. Don is terribly worried that he won’t be a good father. Rosie seems to feel that she’s somehow failed Don by getting pregnant, and since her father wasn’t present for her, she seems to expect Don to leave her. Don, being Don, tries very, very hard to help Rosie, help himself, and to keep the family together. Can he do it? It seems an impossible task. Hilarity, misunderstandings, and moments of true love combine to make a complicated, funny, and enjoyable tale. I particularly enjoyed the aftermath of Don’s attempt to learn about children by filming them “in a natural setting” on the playground. Wow, but Don even manages to resist arrest in the most amusing way possible. If you enjoyed The Rosie Project, then you will enjoy this book.
I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson
Jude and Noah are thirteen year old twins, and while they are different in personalities, they are incredibly close. Jude is fiesty and wears too much red lipstick. She’s the daredevil of the family, and the apple of her daddy’s eye. Noah is artistic and insightful, and his mother’s favorite. Noah sees the truth in everyone’s hearts and puts what he sees into his art. Jude, the talker for both of them, puts his insights into words and helps the rest of the world understand her complicated brother. Yet, three years later, the twins are barely speaking, and it’s Jude who’s in art school, not Noah. Jude sees the ghost of her dead grandmother, and Noah has sworn off art all together. What has happened to so radically change their lives and drive the twins apart?
Told in alternating points of view, you get to see the twins at ages thirteen and sixteen, and as the story unfolds, you slowly piece together what has happened. Jandy Nelson gives us two amazing characters with Noah and Jude, and she writes in such a compelling style. The book was a little slow to start, and I felt that perhaps the last half of the book tried to take on the emotional issues of too many characters to be completely satisfying at the end. However, Jandy’s exuberant writing style makes up for those minor faults. She has a unique way of showing us a character’s view of the world.
Rain Reign, by Ann M. Martin
Rose Howard loves two things: homonyms and her dog, Rain. Homonyms are words that sound alike but are spelled differently. Rose and rows are homonyms, and Rain has two homonyms, reign and rein. Rain, a yellow dog with seven white toes, is a gift from Rose’s father, Wesley Howard, who found the dog wandering lost in the rain. Rose and Rain become inseparable, as Rose’s dad is often away at work, or down the street at the local bar, and Rose is lonely. Life is good for Rose; she has her homonyms, she has Rain, and she has visits from her favorite uncle, Weldon. Until one day, Hurricane Susan, the storm of the century, arrives, and Rose’s dad let’s Rain outside in the storm without her collar or tags. Rain is lost in the hurricane, and Rose is devastated. Rose devises a plan to find Rain, and when her plan goes into action, she finds that Rain may still belong to someone else who loves her. Rose will have to be especially brave to deal with the situation, and her life may never be the same.
This is a story about a girl and a dog. While there are many stories out there about girls and dogs, this one is special because Rose is special. Rose is a high functioning autistic, and she has special challenges in her life. In addition to her unique way of experiencing the world, she also has a difficult home situation with a father who struggles to manage his own life, with little patience left over for Rose. The story, told from Rose’s, shows you her challenges in dealing with life, and let’s you see her wonderful, loving complexity. All I can say, without spoiling the story, is that Rose is possibly the bravest, most caring person I know. (Real or imagined.) I can’t recommend this book highly enough. If you’re looking for a similar books, aimed at adults, try “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.” This one also features an autistic protagonist. In this case, he solves a troubling mystery and at the same time, he learns more about his connection to his family and to the rest of the world.