mood music: you’re no good – Linda Ronstadt
This book contains an offensive depiction of a person who has autism. To be clear, it is never expressly stated that the protagonist, Molly, has autism. She only refers to herself as “different,” and having trouble reading faces and social cues. While I am not neurodivergent, my partner is, and when I read him some excerpts from the book, he found them problematic.
Molly Gray is a twenty-something-year-old maid who works at a luxurious hotel in an unnamed city; from a quick Google search I believe it’s supposed to be Toronto. She was raised by her grandmother, as she was abandoned by both of her parents who were drug addicts. Molly’s grandmother has since passed when we meet her, and she is struggling to navigate life and the day-to-day without her guidance. If the author was trying to depict Molly as having some sort of arrested development or sheltered upbringing in addition to her neurodivergence, this does not come across well at all.
The main crux of the novel has to do with a murder and other criminal activity that Molly is connected to but is completely oblivious as to her connection to these incidents. Where the author tries to paint her as being naive and trusting, it just comes off as making Molly seem childish and kind of dumb, and that is not how any neurodivergent character should be portrayed.
I was shocked when I realized that this story took place in the modern day because of the way Molly interacts with others and how she is treated by her peers. Most of her peers, with few exceptions, treat her terribly. I think we have reached a point in this day and age where we understand neurodivergence and autism, and that people who are on the spectrum are not dumb, weird, or clueless. There is no sympathy from anyone in this story towards Molly when she says or does something that may be a different response than a neurotypical is expecting, for the most part, her peers are very mean! Again, I have had colleagues and peers who have autism or are neurodivergent and they weren’t treated this way. While I don’t think that only people with neurodivergence should write these kinds of stories, neurotypicals need to do a much better job at depicting these kinds of characters without making them seem like caricatures.