It turns out that April is World Autism Awareness Month (and World Autism Awareness Day was on 2 April) and it so happens that I’ve recently read some wonderful novels featuring main characters with autism.
I know there are many important autobiographies and memoirs written by people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but I have always gravitated to fiction rather than non-fiction. If you’re like me, then I can HEARTily recommend the following m/m romance novels in which people on the autism spectrum find love and happiness.
(This is one of the things I treasure about the m/m romance genre; it tells the stories of such a diverse range of characters. Not only characters of various sexual orientations, but also characters who have conditions such as ASD and PTSD, illnesses such as depression and clinical anxiety, or who suffer from substance abuse.)
So in honour of World Autism Awareness Month, here are three novels I greatly enjoyed featuring characters with autism.
Carry the Ocean by Heidi Cullinan
A true celebration of humanity, Carry the Ocean brings us the stories of two young men who are wide of the mean. Emmet has autism, Jeremey severe depression and anxiety. Through friendship and love and acceptance of each other, they find independence and happiness.
The world needs a book like this. A book that tells the stories of young people (any people) with autism, depression and anxiety, a book that makes us understand the obstacles they face and yet shows us how they can build friendships, fall in love, have relationships, find independence. A book that demonstrates their humanity. The fact these two boys are gay is secondary to the broader issues they each face, but brings its own challenges.
This book has changed the way I view the world, made me more tolerant, made me more understanding. It’s now squarely on my list of all time favourite books ever. I reviewed it at length here.
Cold Fusion by Harper Fox
Although I posted a review of this book on Amazon and Goodreads back in January, I never did post it here to the blog, so here goes:
I jumped up and down and put my life on hold when this arrived on my kindle. Harper Fox is one of my favourite authors, and Cold Fusion doesn’t disappoint (me, anyway). Like many of her books (the best ones) it’s narrated first person with expression and imagery and depth of emotion that take my breath away.
Kier Mallory (Mal) is flawed and broken and headstrong and passionate. At times he made me furious, at times he made me weep, at times I just wanted to hug him. He is at the lowest point in his relatively young life when he meets Vivian Calder, makes a bunch of mistakes, but ultimately comes to care deeply for the awkward young particle physicist with Asperger’s. Viv is just adorable — hot, brilliant, loyal, struggling to make sense of his emotions, trying not to get killed, battling other health issues.
There’s a lot going on in this book, and it definitely put me through the wringer. It’s part thriller, part snow-bound mountain idyll, part medical drama. But even if I did wonder at times whether the book knew which genre it was going for, in the end I felt it all worked because at the very heart is the gorgeous love story between Mallory and Viv. I noticed but didn’t ultimately mind the changes in pace or a few plot contrivances and conveniences. I just wanted a happy ending (and at times I couldn’t see how I was going to get one…).
Overall, I loved the intensity of Cold Fusion, the wonderfully complex, flawed characters who transcend themselves by the end, Harper Fox’s beautiful poetic language. And, as always with Harper Fox’s books, the fabulous sense of place — in this case the northern wilds of Scotland.
Light from the dark by Mercy Celeste
Micah, a former US Marshal whose life is in tatters, takes on the job as bodyguard and head of security for reclusive ‘rich kid’, Christopher, who can’t leave his country mansion and fears there’s a plot to kill him.
What follows is part thriller (as they dodge intruders and danger), part mystery (as they try to unravel Christopher’s traumatic past, which has left him without the ability to speak and prone to strange ‘episodes’) and part romance between Micah and Chris. On top of all this, Chris is autistic, a factor which contributed to his PTSD. (Yeah, the premise is maybe far-fetched, but go with it…)
It’s been a while since I read this, so I can’t write a detailed review. But it’s exciting and passionate and heart-wrenching too. Ultimately, I love the relationship that builds between Micah and Chris, which has all the feels. Amazon
(Disclaimer: I am not in the position to judge the accuracy of the portrayals of autism in any of these books. Carry the Ocean in particular feels authentic to me, but how would I know? My feeling is that even having main characters with autism serves to raise our awareness and understanding of the condition. I do believe authors owe it to their readers to research carefully, but I remain at their mercy.)
These are three novels I happen to have read. I am sure there are many more wonderful novels out there featuring characters with autism. If you have a particular favourite, please share in the comments! (I’m not fussy as to genre, although gravitate towards fantasy and m/m romance at present.)