It’s not often these days that I read a book and sit with it afterwards wishing there was a way to force every person on the planet to read it, but Real is that book for me. We follow Charity Woods, a non-verbal teenager with Autism who struggles to get people to believe that she is intelligent and can hack it in a mainstream classroom. From the very first paragraph of the book, “My name is Charity. I am thirteen years old. Actually, thirteen years plus eighty-seven days. I love sour gummies and pepperoni pizza. That last part no one knows because I have not spoken a sentence since I was born….” made me know I’d be hooked on this story.
Told completely from Charity’s perspective, we get a very real and intimate understanding of what it’s like to live inside a body that Charity can’t control all while her brain is teeming with energy and intelligence and the need to communicate and speak her truth. Following her journey and the lengths she has to go to to prove that she’s not a “charity case,” as she so often feels from people’s pitying glances, is both heartbreaking and existentially clarifying. We understand not just the physical struggle Charity faces every day, but the deep seated emotional and mental struggles brought on both by her own frustrations at her body and the way she’s treated by other people.
This book is a reminder at how easy it is for even the most well-intentioned of us to brush aside those who are differently abled based squarely on how they look and act, instead of diving deeply and approaching them with equitability. The even more amazing thing about this book was the author bios at the end, where you realize that this is based on the true-life story of Peyton Goddard. While the book would have been a must-read for me anyway just based on the incredible details and storytelling, knowing that this was really someone’s personally lived story made it an even more important read for me.
If I lived in the world according to Ale, this book would be required reading for every middle schooler.
Bingo Square: Rep