An insightful look at life for a ten year old child with an autistic sibling – the fight for attention, the overlooked opportunities like being able to choose your own school shoes or branded trainers, the choices and expectations that are a fundamental part of life in a family with an autistic child- even smaller details like the acceptable volume level on the TV.
The first thing that strikes you about this book is the numbers adorning the top of each page indicating a new chapter. The numbers correspond to the code featured at the front of the book and determine the name of each chapter, a fun interactive feature of the book. Numbers continue to be relevant as Frank, the main character in the book narrates a countdown to relevant major events affecting himself and his younger brother, beginning with starting the approaching new academic year.
For Frank the return to school sees him starting his final year of primary school, and for his younger brother Max it means starting an entirely new school that caters for his Autism. Each chapter brings you near and near to the imposing deadline and details the hurdles faced, not just those that most ten year old boys experience but also that come from having a sibling with autism, like the preparation prior to going school shoe shopping for example, but the book does well to depict lows such as this particular shopping trip which ended badly as well as highs such as when they go on an impromptu dog walk and Max relishes every moment and even signs his very first word as a consequence.
The story has some dramatic scenes – including one in which Frank comes away with a broken arm and the book is definitely a rollercoaster of emotions to read with the notable highs and lows along Franks journey making this a gripping, raw, powerful story of life as a family facing the challenges and milestones that come about daily.
Frank’s mum seems to endure more challenges then most in this book and the toll it takes on her becomes clear, with her more and more tired and distant, and Frank sees this as the down side to life with Max in it and as such becomes full of resentment and hate towards his younger brother, often reflecting on life pre Max as his mum’s happier and easier years. This means that Frank doesn’t feel the need to be defensive of his brother when other children speak badly of him – they are only saying what he is thinking after all. But then the shame and denial kicks in. This book really has an amazing ability to reflect multiple angles of each situation and gives the reader an insightful and well informed perspective of the story as a whole.
I doubt anyone would make it through this book without crying, and that is a huge testament to how brilliantly written this story is, how it immerses you early on and leaves you feeling so invested in the family, wishing them less issues to face along the way and relishing the successes along the way.
The Space We’re in is published by Bloomsbury and available in hardback at £10.99 (Hardback RRP).