This book has been creating a buzz on Twitter for several months now. It’s author Louise Beech is always generous in the way she shares her creative process and everything she and publisher Orenda Books were saying about this story interested and intrigued me.
As an SEND practitioner the premise of this book had me hooked. Books that portray characters with autism are few and far between, and it’s fair to say that some are more successful than others. So I was waiting with baited breath to see how Louise would rise to this particular and unique challenge. It’s fair to say I wasn’t disappointed.
Right at the heart of this book is Sebastian. Sebastian is 20 years old, lives with his Mum Veronica in Hull. He likes eggs, swimming and Billy Ocean. Sebastian is autistic and like most young men of his age Sebastian is interested in sex.
His Mum Veronica loves her son, and is broken hearted that he is lonely, confused and frustrated. Desperate to find a way to help her son she begins to consider paying to give him the experiences he desperately wants.
Isabelle is lost. Working as an escort under the name of Violetta, she is struggling to pay her father’s medical bills and keep up with her nursing degree.
When the paths of all three characters cross some solutions are found but lives are changed forever. Decisions that are made with the best of intentions begin to take on a life of their own with far reaching and unforeseen consequences.
Within this story Louise Beech tackles a complex and little discussed issue head on. She acknowledges and explores what society to often chooses to ignore; that young people and adults who are neurodivergent still want and need to engage in healthy sexual relationships. They still have thoughts, feelings, wants and desires just like the rest of this crazy world. And the challenges they face around understanding social constraints and boundaries, including issues of consent, need thought, discussion and appropriate support. Not to be ignored or worse condemned.
With skill and compassion Louise has created a cast of three dimensional, sympathetic and beautifully flawed human beings. No one is perfect but everyone is striving to stay one step ahead of the game. Autism might be at the centre of this novel but it is human nature that gives this story it’s beating heart.
This novel will surprise you in every way.