Rouge is the poignant story of a girl coping with Asperger’s syndrome as she navigates the foreign territory of friendship…
Kiara has a difficult time making — and keeping — friends. She has Asperger’s syndrome, so relating to other people doesn’t come naturally. Most of the time, she relies on Mr. Internet — her go-to when the world doesn’t make sense, which is often — and her imagination, where she daydreams that she’s Rogue, one of the mutant superheroes of the X-Men. In the comics, Rogue hurts anyone she touches, but eventually learns to control her special power. Kiara hasn’t discovered her own special power yet, but when Chad moves in across the street, she hopes that, for once, she’ll be able to make friendship stick. She’s even willing to keep Chad’s horrible secret, if that’s what it takes. But being a true friend is complicated, and it might be just the thing that leads her to her special power.
3 Things for a middle grade reader to love
I should begin with a caveat. This is marketed as a YA book and for good reason. It deals directly with a child who lives in a home where illegal drugs are being made. A middle school boy and one much younger, live in the house and are cruelly treated by their parents. That said there is very little in the way of swearing, no sex or romance, and the violence happens for the most part “off screen”. It’s not for a tender-hearted reader but I think it’s a valuable conversation starter for a kid with a taste for realistic fiction with a harder edge.
1. There are quite a few books about kids on the autism spectrum these days. Here is one written by a person with Aspergers Syndrome, and shows a keen insight into a kid who longs for friendship and connection even while her outward actions seem to signal the opposite. It also shows how vulnerable a highly intelligent child can be if she is not emotionally and socially sophisticated.
2. For kids who love real life drama and conflict with no magical solutions and no super powers or wise mentors to save the day, this is the perfect book.
3. BMX bike riding is really popular and I seldom see it portrayed in a book. I don’t see a lot out there for comic book fans to read that isn’t also a comic book. It would be a huge mistake to think that a kid who likes comics and graphic novels can’t or won’t read something else, so if you’ve got an X-men fan in your life, here’s a novel that’s likely to strike a chord.
Something for a writer to think about.
Something my own editor and I have gone back and forth on with each of my manuscripts is whether the character sounds authentic to his or her age. It’s a tricky problem because kids in real life sound worldly-wise one moment and babyish the next. A characters position in the family and region of the country have a huge impact on how sophisticated they sound. So how to capture the “true voice” of a character without confusing the reader about the characters age is always a challenge. I thought Kiara’s character did a good job of both sounding highly intelligent but also young for her age and naive.
How I came to review this book
As always I make no claims to objectivity. Lyn Miller-Lachman is a friend and gave me an ARC of her book. I would have reviewed this one many months ago but the kids in the carpool found it and passed it around and then another friend wandered off with it and then my own kids read it. Not that I pushed the book on them by any means, in fact I was rather put out when the book vanished for months. But I’m happy to have finally gotten a chance to read it.