KIDS LIKE US
Until I was eight years old, I called myself ‘you’ because that’s what everyone else called me, and I called other people ‘I’ because that’s what they called themselves. Once I finally learned to read, I was mostly able to get it straight. Still, I can’t get them right when I’m nervous…
KIDS LIKE US is the story of Martin, a teenager on the autism spectrum, who falls for Gilberte-Alice, a ‘normal’ French girl. While spending summer in the French countryside with his mother, Martin mistakes Gilberte for a character in a novel he is obsessed with—Marcel Proust’s masterpiece In Search of Lost Time. He gradually realises she is not Gilberte, the fantasy girl, but a real person named Alice. Falling in love, in all its unpredictability, teaches Martin that he can in fact connect with others.
Perhaps the line between reality and imagination does not have to be fixed. Hilary Reyl’s writing is sharp, original and brimming with empathy and humour. For those who loved The Curious Incident of the Dog at the Nighttime, and Counting by 7’s.
PRAISE & REVIEWS
The original narrative voice of 16-year-old Martin drives adult author Reyl’s insightful and multilayered first book for teens, which brims with nostalgia, romance, complex supporting characters, and fascinating introspection. While on location in France at his mother’s latest film project, Martin, a handsome American student with autism who “could almost pass for nothing more than quirky,” experiences life through his “affinity” with Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (Martin simply calls it Search), which “has filled me up like an empty glass for years.” As Martin experiments with attending a general education summer school, he struggles to distinguish between events in Searchand in his own life, as well as between “moths”—people drawn to him because of his mother’s celebrity—and real friends. Martin’s childhood memories, such as his parents’ early distress at his diagnosis (“We thought he was so cute, and he’s actually Rain Man”), blend seamlessly into the narrative, while Martin’s reflections on “the neurodiversity movement,” and efforts to “cure” autism raise thought-provoking ethical questions. Ages 12–up.
--Publisher's Weekly (starred review)
Martin, 16, has high-functioning autism, and he is leaving the comfort zone of his small school in Los Angeles to accompany his mother and older sister to France for the summer. There he will attend a local high school’s summer program for students with autism, while his mother directs a movie. Martin brings with him his well-read copy of Swann’s Way, the first volume of In Search of Lost Time, by Marcel Proust, which informs just about every aspect of his life. When he develops a crush on a girl in his class, in his view, she becomes interchanged with a character from Proust’s novel, and he hesitates to approach her lest the illusion be shattered. Meanwhile, his best friend from home warns him about people trying to befriend him to get closer to his famous mother, but Martin gradually learns how to manage those relationships in a way that plays to his strengths, and by the end of summer, Martin has grown in confidence and perceptiveness. Reyl movingly captures the point of view of a person who sees the world in a completely different way. Her writing is lucid and luminous, and the first-person narrative has a cinematic quality as Martin processes the world around him. Charming, thoughtful Martin is easy to root for, and readers will cheer as he triumphs over obstacles.
--Booklist (starred review)
Sixteen-year-old Martin Dubois navigates family, friendships, and neurotypical attitudes in Reyl's teen romance. Spending the first half of the summer in France on location with his filmmaker mother and Stanford-bound sister is as thrilling as it is terrifying for Martin. The white, autistic teen's near fluency in French, his penchant for classic French cookery, and his complex affinity for Proust's In Search of Lost Time (or Search, as he calls it) ought to make the trip an exciting immersion. But they are not enough to drown out Martin's anxiety about attending a general education French high school (lycée), where his ways of interpreting and interacting with the physical and social worlds are sure to clash with others'. To his surprise, however, he makes friends with a few students rather quickly and finds referential roles for all of them in Search, including the potential for romance. But when it becomes clear that the other teens have only befriended him for his proximity to Hollywood stars, Martin begins to consider all the relationships in his life and what they mean to and for him. While Reyl hasn't broken the mold of autistic teen protagonists, Martin is a credit to the growing corpus, with multimodal idiosyncrasies that he builds on rather than buries and a validating first-person narrative and first romance. A charming debut.
"There has never been a romantic hero like Martin, but there has also never been a living, breathing, heart-breaking teen not like him. Whether tender and familiar or brilliant and disorienting, Kids Like Us weaves together a truly atypical love story—from pound cake and Proust, from autism and family dysfunction—but always with the rare, luminous humanity that makes a true teen anthem, another Fault in our Stars.”
-- Melissa de la Cruz, NYT bestselling author of Blue Bloods and Witches of East End
"The most original voice since The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime tells the most radiantly human love story since Eleanor and Park. Reyl's extraordinary YA debut isn’t just a book you read; this is one of those rare books that reaches in deep and writes you back."
--Margaret Stohl, co-author of #1 NYT and international bestseller Beautiful Creatures
"Kids Like Us is a song in which, like life, both harmony and dissonance play their part. The writing is beautiful; the setting lush and evocative. I didn't want to leave Martin's world."
--Ally Condie, #1 NYT bestselling author of Matched and Summerlost
"For a teenager on the spectrum, a simple human connection can be an epic challenge. In her wonderfully touching YA debut, Hilary Reyl tells the story of one boy's effort to connect his imaginary world to the real one. There is love, humor and compassion on every page. You'll be blown away by this boy and by this book.
-- Holly Goldberg Sloan, NYT bestselling author of Counting by 7s
"A heartfelt celebration of young life with all its strange and endearing awkwardness, obsessions and first eruptions of love."
-- Martine Murray, author of Molly & Pim and the Millions of Stars.