Rating: 2 stars out of 5
Hervé has Asperger’s, a specific kind of autism that makes him unable to interact with other people.
Luc has been severely scarred by fire and flees human presence to avert the way people glare and frown when they see him.
It was impossible for them to meet, but life sometimes likes to cheat the odds. Is it just a trick or a way to bring together two men who could be each other’s lifeline?
I gave this book two stars because the author’s blurb at the end of the book states that he had recently been diagnosed with Asperger’s. If a neurotypical person had written this book, I would give it one star.
Everyone experiences their autism differently. That’s the very nature of a spectrum disorder. People on the spectrum have different stims, different vocal and verbal abilities, different special interests, different skills and strengths, different triggers and anxieties. I know a lot of people with autism who span the spectrum, in real life and as part of the ASD community on the internet who are all impacted by autism in different ways, and I certainly don’t speak for all people with autism, but in all my years, I have never met a person who experiences with world with the same level of misery as Hervé.
He is overwhelmingly joyless, which I sincerely hope don’t reflect the author’s experiences. I understand completely that the world is an overwhelming sensory experience and that people can redouble that, but even Hervé’s stims and special interests don’t bring him happiness, even when we have full access to his internal states. He constantly refers to his autism in terms of ‘difficulties’. There are flashbacks to hateful teachers and mentors, which took me out of the narrative and only served to reinforce that I didn’t like this book. There are portions in which people react to Luc’s facial scarring as if he’s a literal monster, instead of a human man with scars, and outloud declaring that he’s too hideous to be in public, which seems extreme.
Sometimes, the words didn’t flow exactly right, which given that English isn’t the author’s first language, makes sense. I hope this use of language also accounts for some of the way in which the author describes Hervé and his experiences. This book has an uncomfortable reference to cure narratives as well, in which Luc, the love interest, and Hervé manage to ‘cure’ each other’s disabilities in a way.
As a love story, it’s cute and relatively unproblematic, the story of two men navigating each other’s boundaries. It has a happy ending and has no homophobia, even interalized, always a bonus for a gay story. There are some tricks to navigating the world on the spectrum that the author captures honestly, like looking near someone’s eyes instead of at them. The plot itself is lighthearted, and some parts of it feel unfinished and too easy, and I’d really like to see this story reworked with as much love, ease, and acceptance for the ASD community as it has for the gay community.
January 6, 2020