I REALLY wanted to love The State of Grace. The plot centers on a teenage girl named Grace who has autism, and her life as she currently deals with returning to school, the absence of her dad as he’s on a work trip, her mom’s new best friend that she hates, and a cute boy who makes her feel things she’s never felt before. I loved how accurate the representation of autism was (this is an own voices novel), and related to Grace in a multitude of ways, such as being overwhelmed by places with too much noise, lights, and people in an enclosed space, being exhausted every day from my brain working too much, her love of animals, and her intense interest in Doctor Who.
What I didn’t enjoy was the romance in the novel. It starts off cute and promising, but quickly fades to the background, and felt shoe-horned in. Another aspect that may turn some off is that the book has several very repetitive sentences. These may be included because routines are imperative to individuals with autism and changing things can be disturbing, but reading the same sentences and feelings over and over may bother some readers who don’t understand this pattern. Also, her mother treated Grace terribly. I’ve had personal experience with family not understanding my autism, but Grace’s mom just seemed ignorant about her daughter’s struggles. The final issue I had was that all of the secondary characters didn’t have much dimension to them. They popped up every now and then in the story, but quickly were shoved to the background.
If you’re looking for an accurate depiction of autism, The State of Grace is definitely something you should read. The geeky references to Doctor Who, Howl’s Moving Castle, and other properties were a treat, and there are several moments in the novel that tore my heart out. Just be aware of the issues I mentioned.