20 April 2017

Review #598: Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“If they can't learn the way we teach, we teach the way they learn”

----O. Ivar Lovaas

Claire LaZebnik, an American author, pens an enlightening and heart touching young adult contemporary novel Things I Should Have Known that revolves around a female high school teenager who sets up her autistic elder sister with another autistic boy on a date, but little did she had any idea that the boy's younger brother is her classmate and whom she despises to her heart's content and that they both share the same grief and challenges, despite of their social indifferences.


Things Chloe knew: Her sister, Ivy, was lonely. Ethan was a perfect match. Ethan’s brother, David, was an arrogant jerk.

Things Chloe should have known: Setups are complicated. Ivy can make her own decisions. David may be the only person who really gets Chloe.

Meet Chloe Mitchell, a popular Los Angeles girl who’s decided that her older sister, Ivy, who’s on the autism spectrum, could use a boyfriend. Chloe already has someone in mind: Ethan Fields, a sweet, movie-obsessed boy from Ivy’s special needs class.

Chloe would like to ignore Ethan’s brother, David, but she can’t—Ivy and Ethan aren’t comfortable going out on their own, so Chloe and David have to tag along. Soon Chloe, Ivy, David, and Ethan form a quirky and wholly lovable circle. And as the group bonds over frozen-yogurt dates and movie nights, Chloe is forced to confront her own romantic choices—and the realization that it’s okay to be a different kind of normal.

For a popular high school teenager like Chloe, there is no time to think about what her peers think about her personal life, where she every day struggles to stay sane amidst of the advice of her over-caring step father and the curiosity of her autistic elder sister, Ivy. But when Ivy raises some thoughtful questions about her younger sister's perfect love life, Chloe realizes that it is high time that Ivy too needs to find a boyfriend with whom she can spend her time. So she sets her sister up with an autistic boy named Ethan from Ivy's special school. But Ethan's brother turns out to be David, the boy whom Chloe despises and avoids in her school. Yet gradually both Ivy and Chloe rediscover themselves through many challenges like sexuality, relationships and ambitions.

Rarely have I ever came across such a teenage fiction where the author addresses quite a handful of heavy social subjects and stigmas with an air of coolness yet with enough sensitivity. The book covers so many subjects in just 300 pages yet the readers are bound to get a fulfilling experience after reading this book. From teenage love drama to family drama to discovering sexuality, everything has its own weightage in this book, without being too cheesy or too sentimental. Hence the author cleverly draws that line so that the story remains inspiring as well as compelling enough to lure the readers to linger in its essence long after the story has ended.

With an eloquent prose, the author's writing style is extremely coherent and the readers will find it easy to comprehend with the story line. The flow of emotions is smooth although they lack the much-required depth, hence at times the readers might feel impassive, especially about love and relationships, which are the second most important factors of this book. The dialogues have enough sensitivity and are quite articulate that will help the readers relate with the conversations among the characters from this book. The pacing is bit slow, and often drags at times, yet the story line's flair is so brilliant, that it will keep the readers engaged pretty much the entire length of this novel.

The characters are well developed and extremely real to the very core. The author has depicted all the characters with their flaws and strong aspects to give them that honest edge to their demeanor. The main character, Chloe, despite being popular in her high school, is thoughtful and mature beyond her tender age. Chloe's compassion towards her own autistic sister is way above the world and so much encouraging enough to illuminate the minds of those who have an autistic sibling. The family household of the main character that the author captivates through the story line is laced with sympathy and kindness. Ivy's portrayal is extremely authentic and penned with utmost love, that she holds the power to instantly steal the hearts of the readers. The supporting characters aren't that well built as they lack depth and back story that will give them value in the story line.

The romance takes a back seat in this story line, although it plays a huge role in the book. The appealing factor between Chloe and David aren't portrayed with much passion or intensity. In fact, the readers might feel unconnected with their love affair. Whereas the journey of Ivy's love life and other things are painted intricately and vividly with enough emotions to make the readers feel for Ivy's plight. Autism plays a strong backdrop in the story line that is represented authentically with lots of love and sentiments.

In a nutshell, this is a one-of-a-kind and an extremely inspiring coming-of-age teenage contemporary fiction where one will find the realism behind autism, sexuality and teenage love and drama.

Verdict: A simply fascinating tale about flaws, sisterhood and friendships.

Courtesy: Thanks to the author's publishers for giving me an opportunity to read and review this book.

Author Info:
I grew up in Newton, Massachusetts, went to Harvard and moved to LA. (My name was Claire Scovell for a large part of all that.) I’ve written five novels for adults, Same as It Never Was, Knitting under the Influence, The Smart One and the Pretty One, If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home Now, and Families and Other Nonreturnable Gifts. I’ve also published four YA novels with Harper Collins: Epic Fail, The Trouble with Flirting, The Last Best Kiss, and Wrong About the Guy. I co-wrote Overcoming Autism: Finding the Answers, Strategies and Hope That Can Transform a Child’s Life and Growing up on the Spectrum: A guide to life, love and learning for young adults with autism and Asperger’s. My co-author, the brilliant Dr. Lynn Kern Koegel, is the clinical director of the Koegel Autism Center at the University of California in Santa Barbara.
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