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.