Not If I Can Help It

Publisher: Scholastic

There are certain things you cannot tell anyone, even your closest friends. At least that is the way 11-year-old Willa feels. For one thing, there is the fact that she lives with a sensory processing disorder. She has coping strategies and occupational therapy sessions that she would rather even her trusted best friend Ruby never knew about, let alone anyone else at school. However, she can manage all this just fine, so long as she is in control.

Things shift dramatically when Willa’s dad drops a major bombshell. He’s been secretly seeing Ruby’s mum and now they want to get married. Willa is devastated – what would people think? And how would she manage to keep her sensory processing issues a secret if they all moved in together?

In reality, of course, most people have something that they feel embarrassed about. And Willa eventually recognises that even Ruby (the enchanting, reliable, football-loving, Indian-American best friend that all of us would love) has her own difficulties. Plus blending families can bring some great benefits, along with the challenges.

The insight in thus book into sensory disorders is fascinating and authentic (Mackler’s own son shared his lived experience), and the result is truthful, natural and very readable about accepting difference, understanding others’ perspectives and embracing change.

An accessible, well-paced and highly engaging coming-of-age story with a casually inclusive cast and a perfectly loveable and perfectly flawed young protagonist.

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