Now this is more what I was after with the first book. While it remains plenty spicy, the story doesn’t take a backseat to it all this time. And though there are still some moments that had me questioning what the fresh hell I was reading (for example, Khai wakes up with morning wood every day, so he thinks that means jerking it in the shower is a necessity to the point that he gets frustrated it makes his days less efficient), there were fewer of those this time and more moments where it felt genuine and heartfelt.
Namely, the book inadvertently expressed for me something I hadn’t even managed to put into words myself, which is my touch preferences. Like Khai, surprise touches, particularly soft ones, for me are grating, whereas firm ones I want and see coming are not. I’ve had issues similar to him with it, just not to his extremes, but I didn’t understand what separated a welcome touch from an unwelcome one until I saw it spelled out so clearly there. In all of the books I’ve read featuring autistic main characters, this is probably the most I’ve felt seen as a fellow autistic.
Similarly, I too have grappled with worrying that I don’t feel for people the way that I should, as Khai does here. I don’t miss people so much as miss spending time with them. If something bad happens to them, I don’t show my sadness in the typical fashion too often, though it spills out sometimes at random moments, or it’ll manifest in other ways. On top of that, I’m forever concerned that I don’t show human enough emotions for people to register me as anything aside from weird. The people who know me best might recognize that a certain expression is “happy (for you),” but that doesn’t stop me from thinking it’s not enough. It’s the one part of my autism that I’ve expressed wanting to possibly change before, and that I’ve had the hardest time navigating coming to terms with.
As a result, it broke my heart to see Khai so worried that he wasn’t worthy of being in a relationship because love, true love, was beyond him, since I saw so much of myself in that. Likewise, it was affirming to see him work his way through those feelings, to some extent, by book’s end. It’s not an easy path, coming to terms with these things about ourselves. It took me most of my life, for example, to transition from feeling insulted by comments about how quiet I was to mentally turning it back on them with some variation of “and you talk too much.” My wife had that attitude from the jump, but I internalized it for all of my childhood before realizing it was a crock of shit to do so.
Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is that, if you’re autistic and struggling with that, or struggling to accept yourself for who you are in any other way, this book is a good one for helping with that.