Another in the list of books I looked into simply in the hopes of finding decent autistic representation. What I got was… passable, I guess? Colin Fischer tells the story of a high-school kid on the autism spectrum (specifically, he’s diagnosed with the now-outdated “Asperger’s syndrome”) who goes to a regular high school with zero accommodations made for him and is relentlessly bullied by both his peers and his own younger brother (in a cruel twist of fate, given how instantly excited and in love he was when he was first born). But you needn’t worry, because he gets to be the “hero” of the story by helping solve the case of the gun misfiring in the cafeteria during his crush’s birthday party, like some teenage Sherlock Holmes whose powers of deduction seem almost too on point. Oh, and he also has… flirtations? with the aforementioned crush, so he gets a win in that column too, I guess? You know, despite the fact that I was always confused by their friendship/relationship, as she just as frequently bristled at his manner of being as she did be nice to him.
That and many other things could’ve been served better by having the story narrated by Colin himself, rather than done in the third person. Or, heck, alternating first-person narrations. The authors try to use the third-person narration to give you everybody’s viewpoints, letting you understand things fully, but they fall short because it feels too clinical and distanced. The entire time I was reading it, it felt almost like a story that was desperately trying to will itself into first-person, or at the very least like a third-person story with obvious cracks showing. We get some of Colin’s journal entries as an attempt to supplement things with some first-person material; however, most of it, or at least the bits that begin the chapters, feels just sort of random and like we’re being regaled with facts that barely relate to the matters at hand, not getting any sort of glimpse into his headspace. The result of all this is Colin feels like a third-wheel in his own story at times. Oh, there he is yelling about the noise (without any insight into where his head is at that point in time), for example, while seemingly more important plot-related stuff just continues to go on around him.
Did I mention that outbursts such as these are treated with approximately zero tact? I know I mentioned the whole “zero accommodations” bit, but this is just one great example. The first time we see him have a meltdown like this, his principal gives him a dressing down, saying next time he either has to ask to be excused before reaching that point (and his teachers aren’t allowed to say no, the only “accommodation” he’s given) or he’ll be punished like any other kid, which he is going to do this time to prove a point by giving him detention. The only one who shows him any sort of compassion, patience, and understanding is the PE teacher who started things off by forcing him to do PE, and even they aren’t perfect. It’s just they at least give some thought to how Colin is, rather than just treating him like any other kid. Worst of all is Colin mentions having had a paraprofessional following him around in the past, showing that there was an effort made at one point… but now that’s out the window, apparently, and it’s open season on the poor kid.
Even his brother, like I said, harasses him, calling him a “retard” and messing with the careful order of his room, knowing full-well it will cause one of Colin’s meltdowns. We don’t even get an apology from his brother by book’s end, just him asking Colin if he remembers how their mom had told him he’d apologize when he was ready and leaving it at that, which makes Colin smile because I guess he knows that’s as close as he’ll ever get to an apology.
If it weren’t so depressing, and Colin so unbelievably skilled at deduction, I might have liked it more. Is the bullying, lack of accommodations, sibling rivalry, etc. probably at least somewhat true to life? Yes. But do I think it’s what you should be presenting to young readers as a potential introduction to kids like Colin? No.