Olivia “Livvie” Owen is a fourteen-year-old with Autism. She lives in Nabor with an “a” not Neighbor with an “e”, an impoverished community in West Virginia. She writes, “Livvie Owen lived here” at every home she leaves, the only reminder she was ever there. Her family has had to move a lot, due to financial struggles, something many are faced with today. Another source of tension in the Owen’s home is Livvie’s outbursts, which often draw unwanted attention from landlords. As they once again face eviction, Livvie focuses on finding a way to get back to the “sun house” where everyone was happy. The only problem is that Livvie accidentally burned that house down.
In the middle of the night Livvie hears the whistle from the old paper mill that was near her old house. At first you think she’s imagining it, but then one of her sisters also admits to hearing it. Or are they both hearing things? I like to think the whistle represents a better time they both want so badly they do hear it. On a midnight trip across town, the girls discover the mill is abandoned, as is their old house. Livvie refuses to accept the fact she will never live in the “sun house” again.
Disappointed with the prospects of moving again, there are also many bright spots for Livvie. She uses cues, trying to remind herself that not everyone thinks like she does. These help her navigate in a world that is foreign to her. Her new teacher understands her needs unlike anyone else. We come to find she has a brother with Autism. This presence in her life allows Livvie to see herself in a new light. She feels guilt over her family situation and knows the problems she can sometimes cause. The relationship she forges with her sisters is realistically portrayed. At times difficult to deal with each other’s quirks, the bottom line is they love each other. Livvie comes to realize sometimes people take care of you and sometimes you take care of people.
What a tremendously brilliant book. Yes, it’s a quick read, but you won’t be able to put it down. I became engrossed with Livvie and her struggles. Her constant attempts to interpret people’s emotions and make sure everyone is happy were heartwarming and breaking at the same time. Livvie just tries so hard. The author’s insight gives credibility to the portrayal of the other members of the family and how they interact with Livvie. It is evident the author has experience with people with Autism because her descriptions of Livvie are spot on. Livvie Owen Lived Here is an accurate depiction of one high-functioning Autistic teen’s ability to navigate the world around her and find her niche.
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Nathaniel Clark is NOT a genius. That’s according to some sources. Don’t get me wrong, he’s smart all right. Brilliant, in fact. Nathaniel has perfect SAT scores and an off the chart IQ. But to be a “genius” you have to achieve something extraordinary, make a contribution to the world. And just being smart doesn’t cut it. Nate makes it his goal to be admitted to the Aldous Institute, certified a genius.
But Nate isn’t your average fourteen-year-old. You see, he has Asperger’s Syndrome. That’s on the spectrum of Austism. Aspies, as Nate’s community refers to themselves, are very intelligent. The social part of life is where he has trouble. Nate doesn’t always pick up on the little details, like if someone is tapping their foot impatiently they might not want to hear all about algebraic equations. That’s what “mindblind” means. It’s the absence of that indicator most of us takes for granted. Aspies often have difficulty predicting what others want, or need, or are really meaning when they are in social situations. Nathaniel tries to make up for this by really paying attention and looking for cues and reminders when dealing with “normal” people.
Other than his “mindblindness”, Nathaniel has issues just like anyone else. His parents are divorced and his father is less than supportive of his needs. Let’s face it, his dad is a real jerk. Nate may have trouble socially, but he does have friends. Jessa has been his pal for years, but as he grows older, he begins to think of her as more than a friend. Out of his normal comfort zone, Nate and his friends form a band. Nate finds his talents stretch beyond mathematics to song writing. This could be the something big he’s been waiting for.
Mindblind gives us a look into the mind and life of Nathaniel, a boy with Asperger’s syndrome. He still has to navigate the dangerous waters of teen life. Parents, parties, and girls are still on the agenda. Nate just thinks a little differently than most. Yes, there have been many novels with Aspie protagonists lately. Just as no two people are the same, Nathaniel Clark is an individual. For some other Aspie tales check out Livvie Owen Lived Here and The Half-Life of Planets.
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