By Carol Cujec and Peyton Goddard
Wow. I’m struggling on where to put this for Bingo, because it definitely belongs in Rep, but it also needs to be taught in classrooms.
I got this as an ARC, passed it on to my coworker who orders books for my library, then placed it on a shelf of ARCs to be either read later or used for craft projects. Months later I went through said shelf to look for craft books (we’re making folded book hedgehogs, they’re super cute!) and I remembered the Rep square for Bingo, so I took it home to read it. And now I’m recommending it to EVERYONE!
Real is a book told from the point of view of Charity. Charity is a very smart thirteen-year-old girl living in California with her parents. But she is the only one who knows that first fact. Because Charity has non-verbal autism, and often does not have control over her own body.
Most of us take basic things for granted. The ability to speak, for example, or type or use sign language to make ourselves understood. But Charity has none of those options. Her body will often not obey her commands, so at times even pointing or nodding or even blinking is not within her control. No one knows that she has a working teenage brain inside her head. No one knows if she can even understand them, and so many assume that she cannot.
Up until an unscheduled meeting reveals the actual school conditions Charity has been dealing with for the past few years, Charity may have been stuck in that world. Unfortunately, those without voices are easily abused and ignored and taken advantage of. Many schools for special needs children are supportive learning environments. But unfortunately, some are not, and if no one complains, then nothing changes.
Charity has to fight for everything in her new school, even the chance to be there. But in her new supportive environment, helped by professionals who know different techniques on how to try to overcome her difficulties, Charity starts to thrive and come into her own. She has obstacles thrown at her, and she manages to overcome them. Teenagers are cruel, and being the different one is never easy.
I think part of why this hit home so much is that I know someone very much like Charity in the school where I sometimes teach. He is non-verbal and I am assuming autistic, but I don’t actually know that last part. Most of the time he is as sweet as can be, but there are times where unfortunately he can be dangerous. He is tall and strong and fast, and when he gets frustrated he can lash out. Most people assume that because he cannot speak and sometimes does not have control over his limbs that he is unintelligent. But after reading this, I feel like I understand him a bit better. I will try to reach out to him more. I’m certain there is more to him than I know.
(This fulfills the 2021 CBR 13 Bingo square of “Rep”)