Grace has Asperger's and her own way of looking at the world. She's got a horse and a best friend who understand her, and that's pretty much all she needs. But when Grace kisses Gabe and things start to change at home, the world doesn't make much sense to her any more.
Suddenly everything threatens to fall apart, and it's up to Grace to fix it on her own.
Whip-smart, hilarious and unapologetically honest, The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas is a heart-warming story of one girl trying to work out where she fits in, and whether she even wants to. From Goodreads.
Disclaimer: I do not have Asperger's syndrome, and so cannot comment on how well represented people with Asperger's are in this book. However, it is #OwnVoices.
Before reading The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas, I had yet to read a book featuring a protagonist on the autism spectrum before. There are a few out, but not a huge amount, and only one other that I know of that is #OwnVoices, so I was really excited for The State of Grace, as it sounded like a really awesome story, and Grace has Asperger's syndrome. Unfortunately, I don't think this story really was for me.
Let's start with the positives. We all know #OwnVoices stories are written for those who rarely see themselves in the pages of the books they read, of if they are, not necessarily represented all that accurately. So, The State of Grace isn't for me. However, I did learn more about what it's like for people with Asperger's syndrome; how overwhelming a person can be by everything going on around them, how important structure and routine is, how it can sometimes be difficult to understand what other people mean. It was great getting that insight into something I've not completely understood before, and also knowing I can trust the representation. What was also, great, though, is that this isn't a book about having autism, it's just about the life of a girl who has it. Grace's autism does come up a lot, because it plays into how she sees, reacts and acts in the world, but it's not really the focus of the story.
And it's the story itself that I have a problem with. Because what the focus of the story is, I'm not really sure. There's a boy, Gabe, that Grace likes, who likes her back, and they go on a few dates. Grace is bullied a little by the popular girl in her class, and feels like she's weird and strange a lot, and wants to be more "normal". There are some problems at home because her dad, who is a wildlife camera man, is often away a lot, this being one of those times - and this time round, her mum isn't coping so well. Grace's mum is also back in touch with an old uni friend, who has a lot of opinions on how she lives her life, and how much her children should (or rather, shouldn't) depend on her, and puts all sorts of ideas in her head. She's rude, and she's completely ignorant to Grace's needs, and her mum just seems to selfishly go along with it. This part of the story was actually really well done, because I was so mad at Grace's mum. I could understand that life is maybe not so easy, and with Grace's father having the job he has, a lot of the time she is the one who has to look after her children and doesn't have much of a life of her own, but the way Eve was influencing her, it was like she simply didn't care anymore, and would force Grace into doing things that really upset her. It wasn't just selfish, but harmful and inconsiderate, and she had me fuming. But overall, there wasn't one main plot thread, just several smaller ones.
And, if I'm honest, I wasn't really pulled into the story. I wasn't exactly interested it. Grace, her friend Anna, even Gabe and the other boys, all seemed pretty young. Really, there was no difference in maturity between Grace and her friends and her younger sister Leah, who's 13. I know it's only three years age difference, but there's still a difference between how 13-year-olds act, and how 16-year-olds do. And this isn't down to Grace's Asperger's syndrome, because her friends were the same. As well as being little young, I don't feel I got to know many of the characters very well, and they felt under-developed to me. Kind of two-dimensional. The story was just kind of flat, until the pretty big deal that happens near the end, and even that comes completely out of left field. Grace suddenly has an idea, goes for it, and things go pear-shaped in a big way. But before that... I guess it was just a snapshot of Grace's life where nothing all that interesting happens, because we don't see much of very much. The only character I feel like I know is Grace.
And I also found that I didn't relate to her. Not because she's autistic, but because of the life she lives. She is middle class, whereas I'm not. Which is fine, I've read books with characters who are middle class before, and I was still able to find something there to relate to, even if they live a very different life to me. But there was nothing with Grace. She was very young 16-year-old, which was a gap of it's own, but there was also a distancing, in regards to her having a horse she rode every day, and all the training for Tennis her sister had. As I said, this in itself is not a problem, but it's just the way it was told, I guess, that put up a barrier between Grace's Middle Class life, and my own Working Class life.
I'm afraid to say I didn't like this book very much. But I think most of that is down to personal taste rather than anything else. Do read other reviews before deciding whether or not to give this book a go.
Thank you to Macmillan Children's Books via NetGalley for the eProof.
Published: 6th April 2017
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Rachael Lucas' Website
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