Can You See Me?

Publisher: Scholastic

Review

Starting secondary school is a daunting time for any 11 year old – and Natalia (known as Tally) is no exception. Acclimatising to new surroundings and learning the ways of different teachers is proving tough. Plus there's the boy who calls her names, and her friends from primary school upon whom she's always been able to depend but who have started talking about things that just don't interest her (like boys) and cautioning her when her behaviour is embarrassing.

In addition to the universal challenges of being 11, Tally is also autistic. She often struggles to make sense of other people's actions and language. And now, as she enters this new stage in her life, she is becoming painfully aware of the way she is perceived, feeling an almost unbearable pressure to try to conform.

This innovative book is a collaboration between author Rebecca Westacott and a talented young blogger (herself autistic). In addition to helping shape the characters and plot, Libby supplies Tally's diary entries, thus offering the reader an authentic insight into one girl's perspective of the condition, along with valuable practical tips.

This is a powerful and very readable story about trying to fit in, to which almost any young reader will relate. Along the way, a host of common assumptions and stereotypes about autism are smashed, as we observe Tally's potent sense of humour, her empathy and her ability to learn. Most powerful of all is witnessing Tally ultimate realisation that autism is not something that needs to be hidden.

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