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
If you are looking for a story that is delicious and beautiful - Kids Like Us is here for you. It had such an epic combination of things to love: it's set in France, there is so much food, there's a boy who's obsessed with a book (#relatable) and it features a beautifully accurate representation of autism! As I mentioned recently I'm on the autism spectrum too and finding books that represent it well is heckin' hard. SO PLEASED THIS BOOK EXISTS... full review
-- Paper Fury
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)
With his beloved father in prison for financial misdealing, Martin and his sister join their film-director mother on location in Chenonceaux, France, where Martin, on the high-functioning side of the autistic spectrum, will attend a local high school, purely for socialization purposes and to practice his French. A fan of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, he is immediately smitten with a girl he takes for Proust’s Gilberte, but she and the other friends he makes turn out to be what his neuro- diverse friend from home calls “moths”—people attracted to the glittering light of his mother’s fame. Martin is hurt, but his own experiences with having a brain that doesn’t work like other people’s allow him to accept his vulnerability and their flaws, and to create new stories about how to reach outside the bubble of his own mind. He responds with the kind of book-learned and socially practiced empathy that he grants himself and receives from those who aren’t trying to change him. Martin’s been deeply loved if not always understood, and his memories, thought processes, and discussions inspire the kinds of productive reimagining that makes calls for inclusive neurocosmopolitanism more than wishful thinking; the book’s indebtedness to Proust goes beyond lyrical phrases to a thematic embrace of the slow savoring of the richness of human experience. In the end, however, it is Martin’s ability to move beyond “things past” to the possibilities that open up when you accept yourself and others that gives this wise story its resonance.
-- BCCB (starred review)
If there is one thing that I have learned at Extreme Kids and through living with my son Felix, it is that the distinction between the disabled and the so called normal is at best blurry and usually in flux. We all have our blind spots and inabilities, and though they might be taken for weaknesses, they can bring us to places of deeper understanding and experience. This knowledge permeates Reyl’s book, which is not about autism, or a broken family, or an ambitious mother. Rather Kids Like Us is a beautiful tale about young love, the solace of books, the complications of friendship, and the taste of Martin’s cassoulet... full review
-- Eliza Factor, Extreme Kids
From the author of 2013 adult novel "Lessons in French" comes a love story like no other, set in summer in France and told in the unforgettable voice of a 16-year-old boy on the autism spectrum. Martin, son of a French father and American mother, has always attended a small school with other autistic kids at home in Los Angeles but his mother signs him up for the summer session at the local high school in a small French town while she directs a movie filming at a historic castle.... full review
-- Buffalo News
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.
Pronouns are confusing for Martin. So when the narrative of Hilary Reyl’s debut, Kids Like Us, begins in the second person, the reader immediately experiences some of the same disorientation that plagues Martin daily. As a teen with autism, Martin is deeply connected with his inner world. He’s currently attending a summer school while his mother directs a movie in the French countryside. Martin speaks French fluently—in part because his father is French, and also because Martin is obsessed with Marcel Proust’s novel In Search of Lost Time. This fixation leads Martin to imbue his life in France with an exhilarating level of meaning. At school, Martin believes that he has met his own Gilberte, and gradually Martin develops a genuine relationship with the girl despite her neurotypical limitations.Martin’s voice is original and completely immersive. Living in France intensifies his affinity for Proust, as everything—the madeleines, the hawthorn bushes, the French language itself—is laden with importance. It is here, far removed from the routine of his life back in Los Angeles, that he makes tremendous strides in recognizing the distinction between his internal absorption and the independent emotional experiences of the people around him. Reyl makes it clear that Martin’s motivation for change is his own quest for broader emotional understanding rather than a need to “fix” his autism.Kids Like Us is a beautiful and insightful debut novel that’s reminiscent of the work of Francisco X. Stork.
"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.