The Space We’re In

Publisher: Bloomsbury

When Frank’s younger brother is diagnosed with autism at the age of three, their mum explains that it means he may not always understand the way the world works. Frank, with great perceptiveness, observes that he doesn’t understand the world, either. Who really does?

Now aged ten, Frank is learning that people can sometimes be cruel. When kids make unpleasant jokes about Max, Frank fails to defend him. Like many older siblings, he is also frustrated at how much of his parents’ time and attention his brother now demands. All in all, he’s currently wrestling some pretty serious feelings of guilt and resentment. Little does he know, life is about to throw something far, far worse at the family.

This is a heart-rending read. It’s the world according to Frank, so where autism is concerned, the portrayal is very much from a sibling’s perspective and at a particular moment in time. However, the author’s genuine and expansive knowledge of the spectrum is clear and the messages are ultimately reassuring, illustrating how much a severely autistic child (like any child) can develop and achieve, love and be loved.

The addition of references to coding and powerful observations about life, the universe and everything, make this a memorable and satisfying read.

Above all, the reader will fall in love with Frank as he sits precariously on the edge of childhood innocence, before being dragged far too soon towards grown-up tragedy.

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