awards and honors
2011 ALA/YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults
School Library Journal:
Lovable 14-year-old “Aspie” Nathaniel Clark stores his memories in computer-like files in his brain, loves formulas, plays keyboard in a rock band, has some trouble in social situations, likes to spend time in his own mental world and really, really wants to be a genius. Nathaniel’s father, now divorced from his mother, does not believe in Asperger’s syndrome; he insists that Nathaniel can simply be “normal” if he chooses to. To prove this, he forces Nathaniel to go to a party, where Nathaniel unknowingly ingests quite a bit of alcohol along with his fruit punch. The sickness that ensues, coupled with the fact that Nathaniel thinks he sees the girl he loves with another boy, nearly results in institutionalization. Luckily, he has a great therapist, a loving mother and some incredibly supportive friends/bandmates who get him through the rough patch. The band decides to video-record themselves singing Nathaniel s rocking math songs, and they quickly become famous. There is romance, grad school and a job at the grocery store just on the horizon. Overly optimistic? Maybe — but who cares? Readers will be happy to see Nathaniel succeed.
The Horn Book:
Fourteen-year-old Nathaniel is taking a gap year between college and graduate school, leaving him free to work on his goal of becoming an official “genius” by accomplishing something significant with his profound gifts. His devoted, firm mother keeps him connecting to the outside world rather than staying in the comfort zone of his Asperger’s life, where he is normal. He understands that he is “mindblind” (it’s hard for him to guess what others are thinking), but he has friends, including longtime crush Jessa, and he plays keyboard in a rock band. He also has his weekly stressful visit with his egomaniacal father and his new family, which includes his young half-brother, who Nathaniel perceptively sees is the gregarious, sports-loving son his father always wanted. Nathaniel’s life mostly works well for him, until his father insists on his going to a teen party where alcohol is in the punch. Already on overload from loud noises, confusing conversations, and a disappointing revelation about Jessa, Nathaniel has a serious breakdown that marks the turning point of the novel. The specificity of the references may date the book quickly, but they seem essential to Nathaniel’s concrete point of view. The outcomes feel a little optimistic, but like Beverly Cleary, Roy succeeds in presenting a unique and human perspective that allows the reader to laugh at her character’s quirks while engaging with him wholeheartedly.
Fourteen-year-old Nathaniel Clark lives in two worlds – the outside world of his family and friends and his own, special, inside Aspie world, where he’s not forced to interact with people or worry about wearing his clothes right-side out. The world where he can solve mathematical problems that elude even the brightest graduate students. The world where he feels he can find his own inner truth. People say he’s a genius, but Nathaniel thinks differently. According to a book he once read, a true genius uses his talent to make a contribution to the world. Nathaniel takes the definition literally, and begins his quest for genius status. “I will start, right after I wash the chocolate off my face. If I want to be seen as a genius, I should not look like an idiot.”
Nathaniel has a sky-high IQ and perfect SAT scores, but to reach his goal, he needs to find a way to make his mark on the (outside) world.
What will it take?
Becoming a rock star? (He plays keyboards in a band.)
Kissing his long-time crush Jessa? (Can he work up the courage?)
Sending his mathematical formulas out into the real world? (He’s good at keeping them to himself.)
Making it onto his favorite reality show and winning the grand prize? (He has to wait until age 21 to be eligible.)
Or does Nathaniel become a genius when he retreats to the darkest corners of his Aspie N-world?