Bookstr prides itself on sharing books with equal and authentic representation, from race to LGBTQ+ representation. But one group that’s often overlooked is autistic and neurodivergent representation in YA fiction, and we want to change that. As readers, we know that books can be some of the most powerful tools in the world. Their power comes from their ability to make us feel seen and heard, or to connect us with experiences beyond our own and open our eyes to obstacles others face.
The world is built for neurotypical brains, with very little accommodation. By gaining awareness and knowledge about the diversity of disabilities faced, it allows us to break down all the ways in which accommodations and changes need to be made without putting that work onto the affected community themselves. Explore these YA books featuring neurodivergent characters to better understand how they see the world.
Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal by Anna Whateley
The neurotypical world Peta lives in isn’t designed for the way her mind works, but when she follows her therapist’s rules for “normal” behavior, she can almost fit in without attracting attention. When a new girl, Sam, starts at school, Peta’s carefully structured routines start to crack. But on the school ski trip, with romance blooming and a newfound confidence, she starts to wonder if maybe she can have a life more like everyone else’s. When things fall apart, Peta must decide whether all the old rules still matter. Does she want a life less ordinary, or should she keep her rating normal?
A coming-of-age story about embracing the things that make us wonderfully unordinary, Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal centers autism and ADHD storylines with humor and compassion.
Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
Marcelo Sandoval hears music that nobody else can hear, part of an autism-like condition that no doctor has been able to identify. But his father has never fully believed in the music or Marcelo’s differences, and he challenges Marcelo to work in the mailroom of his law firm for the summer to join what he considers to be “the real world.”
Here Marcelo meets Jasmine, his beautiful and surprising coworker, and Wendell, the son of another partner in the firm. He learns about competition and jealousy, anger and desire. But it’s a picture he finds in a file, a picture of a girl with half a face, that truly connects him with the real world: its suffering, its injustice, and what he can do to fight.
This novel is part love story, part legal drama, and through Marcelo’s eyes, a look at the powerful things that bind us together in the face of a society that wants to tear us apart.
On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis
January 29, 2035. That’s the day the comet is scheduled to hit—the big one. Denise and her mother and sister, Iris, have been assigned to a temporary shelter near their hometown of Amsterdam to wait out the blast, but Iris is nowhere to be found, and at the rate Denise’s drug-addicted mother is going, they’ll never reach the shelter in time.
Then a last-minute encounter leads them to something better than a temporary shelter: a generation ship that’s scheduled to leave Earth behind and colonize new worlds after the comet hits. But each passenger must have a practical skill to contribute. Denise is autistic and fears that she’ll never be allowed to stay. Can she obtain a spot before the ship takes flight? What about her mother and sister? And when the future of the human race is at stake, whose lives matter most?
The Boy Who Steals Houses by C.G. Drews
By the time Sam turned 15, he and his autistic older brother, Avery, were been abandoned by every relative he’s ever known. Now Sam’s trying to build a new life for them. Unfortunately they survive by breaking into empty houses when the owners are away, until one day he’s caught by a family returning home earlier than expected.
But instead of turning him in, to his amazement, this large, chaotic family takes him under their wing as each teenager assumes Sam is a friend of another sibling. Sam soon finds himself inextricably caught up in their life and falling for the beautiful Moxie. But Sam has a secret, and his past is about to catch up with him. By turns heartbreaking and heartwarming, this gorgeously told, powerful story centers on the topics of survival, family, and what it means to truly be home.
When My Heart Joins the Thousand by A.J. Steiger
Alvie Fitz has spent years swallowing meds and bad advice from doctors and social workers. Adjust, adapt. Pretend to be normal. It sounds so easy.
If she can make it to her 18th birthday without any major mishaps, she’ll be free. But if she fails, she’ll become a ward of the state and be sent back to the group home. All she wants is to be left alone to spend time with her friend, Chance, the one-winged hawk at the zoo where she works. Humans are overrated anyway.
Then she meets Stanley, a boy who might be even stranger than she is. A boy who walks with a cane, who turns up every day with a new injury, whose body seems as fragile as glass. Without even meaning to, she finds herself getting close to him. But Alvie remembers what happened to the last person she truly cared about. With her past stalking her with every step, Alvie must make the choice between facing the enemy inside her or losing her chance at happiness after all.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.
He’s struggling to live with his widowed father, Ed, as Christopher’s mother Judy was known to have passed away from a heart attack two years prior to the events of the story. One day, Christopher discovers that his neighbor Mrs. Shears’ dog, Wellington, has been fatally speared with a garden fork. He takes it upon himself to solve the mysterious death of the dog, but what he discovers when digging around in his dad’s office he could never have expected.
Moojag and the Auticode Secret by N.E. McMorran
Set in the utopian world of post-catastrophe ‘Surrey Isles’, Britain 2054, where neurodivergents live in harmony with nature and technology. But when Nema and her friends discover a dystopian, hidden, sugar-hooked society holding lost kids, they find their perfect world in danger. The strange, sticky place hides the truth about Nema’s missing brother, and a plot to destroy the free world she knows. But only they can reverse a code to prevent a rock candy robot invasion and rescue the captives. Fail and they might never make it back home…
Anyone who has ever felt different or had trouble fitting in will identify with this story about finding the strength to be your true self. A fun, Alice-esque adventure revealing what it means to be neurodivergent, in a way that’s relatable to all.
Afrotistic by Kala Allen Omeiza
Noa Ohunene Jenkins doesn’t feel Black enough. Or autistic enough. In her new town, the fifteen-year-old strives to make Dean’s Merit Society, an elite honor society that she sees as her ticket to success. To make the society, she needs leadership experience, but there’s one problem: Noa struggles to socialize appropriately.
Desperate to make it in the society, she creates her own group consisting of autistic students from her school district and names it the “Roaring Pebbles”. With the assistance of the Roaring Pebbles, a robot toy invention, her nonverbal brother, and a bit of classical Mozart along the way, Noa clings to her chance to make the society. And to one day, finally feel enough.
Please Don’t Hug Me by Kay Kerr
Erin is dealing with life on the cusp of adulthood—and on the autism spectrum—and the complexities of finding out and accepting who you are and what’s important to you.
She’s looking forward to Schoolies, at least she thinks she is. But her plans are going awry. She’s lost her job at Surf Zone after an incident that clearly was not her fault, and now she’s not on track to have saved enough money. Her license test went badly, which was also not her fault: she followed the instructor’s directions perfectly. And she’s missing her brother, Rudy, who left almost a year ago. But now that she’s writing letters to him, some things are beginning to make sense.
Can You See Me? by Libby Scott and Rebecca Westcott
Tally isn’t ashamed of being autistic — even if it complicates life sometimes, it’s part of who she is. But this is her first year at Kingswood Academy, and her best friend, Layla, is the only one who knows. And while a lot of other people are uncomfortable around Tally, Layla has never been one of them . . . until now.
Something is different about sixth grade, and Tally now feels like she has to act “normal.” But as Tally hides her true self, she starts to wonder what “normal” means after all and whether fitting in is really what matters most.
For books on autistic representation by autistic authors, click here!