6 Wondrous Novels With Excellent Neurodivergent Characters

Neurodivergent representation matters in the media so that people feel seen. Read on to learn about novels that have neurodivergent main characters.

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Book covers of "The Kiss Quotient," "Mockingbird," and "Act Your Age, Eve Brown" on a pale pink background.

In the media, representation matters. That representation can take many forms, but one specific type that is important is the representation of neurodivergent individuals. Many neurodivergent people can feel alone in their thoughts and how they see the world, and media with representation can show how that is not true.

Of course, everyone’s experience with mental illness can be different, so one book is not going to define people’s ways of life. Nevertheless, when these main characters are shown to have a mental illness in common with the reader, that reader can feel seen in some of their experiences. Here are some novels with main characters that portray neurodivergent people in an authentic way.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

The title of this novel being Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is meant to show that Eleanor is not someone who wants to be happy, as she will settle for fine. Eleanor is not great with people as she lacks a filter. Instead of working on fixing this, Eleanor has simply created a routine for herself where she will not interact with people more than she has to, sometimes less than she has to, and mostly lives her life in solitude.

Book cover of "Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine" with a woman in a yellow sweater and a brown skirt with her arms crossed on a light blue background.
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Then, Eleanor meets Raymond, a young IT guy who becomes one of the few people that Eleanor feels comfortable opening herself up around. Will this new person and experience help Elenor feel more comfortable around other people? Eleanor’s problems feel very real as she struggles with interactions that come naturally to others, and the novel slowly reveals the harsh trauma that made Eleanor’s personality.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Love can be complicated for most people, but it is even more complicated for Stella Lane in The Kiss Quotient. Stella does have one love: math. She is quite successful in her job that is based on creating algorithms, as this is a world that she enjoys and that makes sense to her. Stella’s Aspergers has caused her to want to dedicate herself to math and focus a lot less on dating compared to other women her age.

Book cover of "The Kiss Quotient" with a well-dressed woman and man kissing with their arms wrapped to each other while standing a long division symbol with a turqoise background that has faded white math symbols.
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In order to get the experience, she hires escort Michael Phan to check off all of the main experiences that come with sex and dating, like kissing, foreplay, sex, etc. The one thing that was not on Stella’s checklist was catching feelings for Michael, but it may not be the worst thing. Stella’s analytical view will never go away, as that is a part of her, but she may learn that she can open up her heart and emotions as well.

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

Caitlin is an 11-year-old girl who sometimes wishes she could understand the world like her peers. With her Aspergers, she sees everything a little too literally, too black and white. In Mockingbird, readers learn to see the world through Caitlin’s eyes. Tragedy recently struck Caitlin’s life, as her mother and brother died in a school shooting. It is now just Caitlin and her dad, who is struggling with the sudden loss and being a single parent to a daughter with whom he struggles to build a connection.

Book cover of "Mockingbird" with the phonetic pronunciation written underneath the title and a young girl with a raid in her hair and wearing a green t-shirt leaning against a tree.
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Caitlin is looking to find happiness and closure in her life with everything going on, and she might get some help from people she meets in school. Caitlin provides representation for neurodivergent elementary school students, as it is clear her brain is wired in a way where she sees the world differently.

Cassandra in Reverse by Holly Smale

A lot of us wish we had the chance to change the past. In Cassandra in Reverse, Cassandra Dankworth gets that chance and uses it to fix her life. Cassandra is an autistic woman who has a certain order to her life. She does everything in her power to keep everything in a certain way and avoid anything that can mess up her system. However, one day, everything falls apart when she gets dumped and fired. This messes up everything that Cassandra has worked for, and she wishes she could make it all better.

Book cover of "Cassandra in Reverse" with a blond woman that has her head right side up on the right and upside down on the left with an hourglass in between that is slowly filling up the bottom with a dark blue background.
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The next time Cassandra wakes up, she is living that day all over again. She is pre-dumped and pre-fired, so she can use her system to try to make everything better. However, Cassandra soon realizes these situations are not the ones that need fixing. Her boyfriend and her job may not have been right for her, even though they looked right on the outside. Cassandra actually does not realize she is autistic at first and has to go through a journey of self-discovery. She learns to accept why she has certain behaviors and how they have shaped the decisions of her life.

Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert

Each of the Brown sisters has their own distinct personality traits. In Act Your Age, Eve Brown, readers are given an up-close view of Eve Brown, who is considered the flighty sister of the group. She can be a little excitable and chaotic, but that is just her being unquestionably herself. She may not always be taken seriously as an autistic woman, but she is working hard to finally prove herself. She starts by taking an interview to be a chef at a bed and breakfast, where she meets the owner Jacob, who is also autistic.

Book cover of "Act Your Age, Eve Brown" with a young woman and man hugging with musical notes trailing behind them on a teal background.
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He is the opposite of Stella’s chaotic energy, as he is a perfectionist who is trying to be a leader in the hospitality industry. While it may look like these two won’t work well together, people often say opposites attract. The novel shows autism with two very different characters, displaying how everyone’s perspective is unique.

A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll

Centuries ago, there were people burning “witches” at the stake because they behaved differently from everyone else in society. In A Kind of Spark, 11-year-old Addie can relate to feeling different. Addie is an autistic girl who has difficulty making friends due to her classmates seeing her as weird. Even her teacher finds her autistic behaviors to be odd and is not afraid to tell Addie that. She only feels comfortable with her autistic older sister, as no one else wants her to be herself.

Book cover of "A Kind of Spark" with a girl's silvery side profile with hair flowing underneath her face and a glowing sun holding the title on the side of her head on a purplish-blue background.
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One day in class, Addie learns that her town was home to many witch trials and burnings. Suddenly, Addie feels the need to learn everything about these witches because she feels like she has a connection to them. She wants her town to have a monument to honor these witches, as she feels that everyone needs to remember and recognize their untimely deaths. That campaign certainly does not make Addie look like less of an outsider, but she doesn’t care. Addie learns that her autism is an essential part of her that she can not hide and that she should always stand strong with her beliefs and everything she cares about.

Neurodivergence comes in all shapes and sizes. It can affect people’s worlds in different ways, and everyone will have different reactions to what that means. Each of the neurodivergent main characters is truly one of a kind, as they all have different lives and different support systems. A reader could connect to one of them, all of them, or none of them.

However, the main goal for the writers is to create a character that feels genuine and that can help out at least one reader. If there is a neurodivergent reader out there who picks up one of these books and is touched or connected to the main character, then that writer has completed their mission of representation.


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