Ellen Outside the Lines by A.J. Sass Book Tour Post

Book Description

Ellen Outside the Lines by A.J. Sass

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary

Publishing Date: March 22, 2022

Synopsis:

Rain Reign meets Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World in this heartfelt novel about a neurodivergent thirteen-year-old navigating changing friendships, a school trip, and expanding horizons.

Thirteen-year-old Ellen Katz feels most comfortable when her life is well planned out and people fit neatly into her predefined categories. She attends temple with Abba and Mom every Friday and Saturday. Ellen only gets crushes on girls, never boys, and she knows she can always rely on her best-and-only friend, Laurel, to help navigate social situations at their private Georgia middle school. Laurel has always made Ellen feel like being autistic is no big deal. But lately, Laurel has started making more friends, and cancelling more weekend plans with Ellen than she keeps. A school trip to Barcelona seems like the perfect place for Ellen to get their friendship back on track.  Except it doesn’t. Toss in a new nonbinary classmate whose identity has Ellen questioning her very binary way of seeing the world, homesickness, a scavenger hunt-style team project that takes the students through Barcelona to learn about Spanish culture and this trip is anything but what Ellen planned.

Making new friends and letting go of old ones is never easy, but Ellen might just find a comfortable new place for herself if she can learn to embrace the fact that life doesn’t always stick to a planned itinerary.

Book Links

Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Indigo ~ Indiebound

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I was so thrilled when I saw this book was coming out because it has an Autistic main character and a non-binary side character. I was so excited to sign up for the tour for this book and so happy that I was admitted onto the tour. This is a book that I winded up hugging when I was done with this book because of how much it made me feel seen.

I really liked how throughout this book Ellen is teaching others what it means to her to be Autistic and Isa is teaching others what it means for them to be non-binary. I liked how each of them breaks things down for each other, and how they both allow each other to have questions but are honest if the questions are too much.

Something else that I really enjoyed about this book is how Ellen is exploring who she is and how her teammates just allow for this exploration while Laurel seems to not be on board with these changes. I really loved how Ellen just freely said that she thought Meritzcell is cute without thinking what others would say but then we see how madison’s reaction changes how Ellen navigates these feelings.

There is so much that I could say about this book because of how much I really loved it and all the little pieces that make up this book. I liked that the book was about Ellen’s trip to Barcelona and we see how her being Autistic affects this trip but it isn’t completely centered on this part of who she is.

Characters: In this book, you get to meet several characters through their interactions with Ellen. You get to meet Ellen’s dad, her best friend, Laurel, and her teammates, Andy, Gibs, and Isa. You also get to briefly meet some of Laurel’s teammates and new friends, Madison and Sophie-Anne.

I really loved everyone on Ellen’s team and how they supported her throughout her time in Barcelona and how they just seemed to understand her. I was frustrated with Laurel throughout this book because it seemed that she didn’t really know Ellen or care about her since she had these new friends and Ellen didn’t really fit into that new life. I really enjoyed that Ellen’s teammates accepted her for who she is but still hold her accountable when she does something to hurt her teammates.

I really enjoyed Ellen’s relationship with her dad and how he is around but not really interfering in Ellen’s exploration of the city. I like that he treats her in the same manner that he treats the other students on the trip. I also really liked the conversations that they have about faith and how Ellen goes to her father to discuss what she did to potentially ruin her friendships.

Writing Style: This book is written in first person through the perspective of Ellen which I thought was great. I liked to see how she was experiencing this trip through her perspective rather than what others thought was happening. I thought it was great to know things based on what our main character actually thought was going on rather than have outside input.

Author Information

A. J. Sass (he/they) is an author, editor, and competitive figure skater who is interested in how intersections of identity, neurodiversity, and allyship can impact story narratives. He is the author of Ana on the Edge, a Booklist Editors’ Choice 2020 and ALA 2021 Rainbow Book List Top 10 for Young Readers selection, and Ellen Outside the Lines (Little, Brown, 2022), the co-author of Camp QUILTBAG* with Nicole Melleby (Algonquin, 2023), as well as a contributor to the This Is Our Rainbow: 16 Stories of Her, Him, Them, and Us (Knopf) and Allies: Real Talk about Showing Up, Screwing Up, and Trying Again (DK US & UK) anthologies. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his boyfriend and two cats who act like dogs.

Author Links

Website ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Goodreads ~ Facebook

Under Shifting Stars by Alexandra Latos Book Review

Author Information

Alexandra has considered herself a writer her entire life. In fact, she won an award when she was only five years old for her story about a “dorphaned” bear. As a kid she liked climbing trees, walking to the drugstore to buy notebooks for her next story, and forcing family members and friends to act in her plays. 

Alexandra graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce in Finance, but after a few stints in various treasury departments, she quickly realized the finance world wasn’t for her (the stocks app is still the most under-utilized app on her phone). She returned to university to earn a Bachelor of Arts in English and a certificate in Technical Writing. Though she still picks up a technical writing contract here and there, her true passion remains creative writing, which she manages to fit in between taking care of her kiddos.

Alexandra has published Young Adult and New Adult fiction. She’s currently working on an Adult novel through a grant process with Alberta Foundation for the Arts. She lives with her husband, two (soon to be three) tiny tornadoes, and two black cats, one of whom thinks he’s a dog.

Book Description

This heartfelt novel for fans of Jandy Nelson and Adam Silvera follows twins Audrey and Clare as they grapple with their brother’s death and their changing relationshipswith each other and themselves.

Audrey and Clare may be twins, but they don’t share a school, a room, a star sign, or even a birthday. Ever since their brother Adam’s death, all they’ve shared is confusion over who they are and what comes next.

Audrey, tired of being seen as different from her neurotypical peers, is determined to return to public school. Clare is grappling with her gender fluidity and is wondering what emerging feelings for a nonbinary classmate might mean. Will first crushes, new family dynamics, and questions of identity prove that Audrey and Clare have grown too different to understand each other—or that they’ve needed each other all along?

Review

Thoughts and Themes: From the start of this book I really enjoyed listening to it and was glad that I decided to listen to it rather than read the physical book. I love this book as an audiobook because it feels like you are there with each of the characters.

I really like the way this book goes through Clare trying to figure out her gender identity and sexual orientation. I liked the scenes in which Clare is using google to search for things and we are told exactly what she finds on the site. I really enjoyed how Clare figuring things out for herself is handled and how the complexity of grief is mixed into it all. I thought it was great to see how she begins to separate her grief from who she is and realize that her grief has nothing to do with how she identifies.

I really like the way that each of the character’s feelings are addressed throughout this whole story. I like how we see them go through the process of grief and how these feelings are addressed at the ending of the story. I liked how we get to see not just Clare and Audrey have feelings about their brother’s death but their parents also shares their feelings too.

Characters: This book centers around two main characters who are twins, Clare and Audrey. Both of these characters are very different from each other and these differences keep them from being close to each other. You also get to meet their parents along with some of the twins friends.

I liked seeing the way that Clare and Audrey’s relationship changes throughout the book and how we see the reason that Clare has certain reactions to Audrey. I thought that it was interesting that Clare blames Audrey for their brother’s death but doesn’t realize that Audrey also blames herself.

I like the relationship that Clare has with Taylor and how that relationship helps her figure things out for herself. I like how they ease into their relationship and how their is no negative reactions to this relationship from the people who matter to Clare.

I also really enjoy Audrey’s relationship with Calvin and how she goes back and forth with her feelings about him. I like how messy the relationship begins and how he responds to her actions. I liked that through this relationship we see what autistic dating looks like for one person and I loved that Calvin likes her and explains things differently than the way she sees herself.

Writing Style: This book goes between both two different perspectives in the first person. You get both of Audrey and Claire’s perspective through this book which is something that I really enjoy. You get both of these perspectives and I like that both of the voices of the main characters are distinct.

The narrator of the story is really good and easy to listen to. I like how each of the girls is voiced by a different person so they have a distinct voice. I also like that you can hear the emotion in each of the character’s voices and that each character has a distinct voice. This is one book that you can just listen to and get lost in because of how it feels that you are in these scenes with Clare and Audrey.

Books to read to support Autistic Authors for Autism Acceptance Month

I know the month is almost over but I wanted to make sure that I gave you all some options on how to support Autistic people this month and beyond. Try to read one of these books before this month ends or read these at any time of the year, there is no reason to limit when you read a book. There is a lot more options for you if none of these sound like something you would enjoy, just go to Goodreads and search for books by autistic authors.

Failure to Communicate by Kaia Sønderby 

As one of the only remaining autistics in the universe, Xandri Corelel has faced a lot of hardship, and she’s earned her place as the head of Xeno-Liaisons aboard the first contact ship Carpathia. But her skill at negotiating with alien species is about to be put to the ultimate test.

The Anmerilli, a notoriously reticent and xenophobic people, have invented a powerful weapon that will irrevocably change the face of space combat. Now the Starsystems Alliance has called in Xandri and the crew of the Carpathia to mediate. The Alliance won’t risk the weapon falling into enemy hands, and if Xandri can’t bring the Anmerilli into the fold, the consequences will be dire.

Amidst sabotage, assassination attempts, and rampant cronyism, Xandri struggles to convince the doubtful and ornery Anmerilli. Worse, she’s beginning to suspect that not everyone on her side is really working to make the alliance a success. As tensions rise and tempers threaten to boil over, Xandri must focus all her energy into understanding the one species that has always been beyond her: her own.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang 

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases — a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice — with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan — from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…

Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s by John Elder Robison 

Ever since he was small, John Robison had longed to connect with other people, but by the time he was a teenager, his odd habits—an inclination to blurt out non sequiturs, avoid eye contact, dismantle radios, and dig five-foot holes (and stick his younger brother in them)—had earned him the label “social deviant.” No guidance came from his mother, who conversed with light fixtures, or his father, who spent evenings pickling himself in sherry. It was no wonder he gravitated to machines, which could, at least, be counted on.

After fleeing his parents and dropping out of high school, his savant-like ability to visualize electronic circuits landed him a gig with KISS, for whom he created their legendary fire-breathing guitars. Later, he drifted into a “real” job, as an engineer for a major toy company. But the higher Robison rose in the company, the more he had to pretend to be “normal” and do what he simply couldn’t: communicate. It wasn’t worth the paycheck.

It was not until he was forty that an insightful therapist told him he had the form of autism called Asperger’s syndrome. That understanding transformed the way Robison saw himself—and the world.

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde 

Charlie likes to stand out. She’s a vlogger and actress promoting her first movie at SupaCon, and this is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star Reese Ryan. When internet-famous cool-girl actress Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with her best guy friend Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about a fan contest for her favorite fandom, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde, chosen by readers like you for Macmillan’s young adult imprint Swoon Reads, is an empowering novel for anyone who has ever felt that fandom is family.