Monday, November 27, 2017

Lazebnik, Claire. Things I Should Have Known.

Lazebnik, Claire. Things I Should Have Known. Houghton Mifflin    2017 313p $17.99  Hardback  ISBN 978-0-544-82969-5 hs   Realistic fiction  VG-BN           
Any novel that teaches young adults the concept of empathizing is a must-read, and Lazabnik’s new novel teaches empathy in the most effective way, by suggesting and educating instead of by preaching.  At first, Chloe’s goal of finding a boyfriend for her autistic sister might seem self-serving, but when one sees the love and concern she has for Ivy, we know that she really wants Ivy to experience a social relationship.  At school, there is no rapport between Chloe and David, a coarse, overbearing, opinionated classmate who undermines everyone’s opinion in English lit class.  Unbeknownst to Chloe, her choice of a beau for Ivy happens to be David’s brother Ethan.  The power of empathy is taught once again in the relationship between David and Ethan.  In David’s role as protector, advocate and best friend, he has kept Ethan safe ever since their mother left to build a whole new family for herself.  The relationships develop slowly during the double dates (relationships, in the plural, because David and Chloe also begin to have feelings for each other).  Chloe already has a boyfriend, James, a rich teenager who lacks empathy, but his boorish behavior becomes obvious to Chloe the more time she spends with David.  A major conflict enters the story with the discovery that Ivy might be gay.  What a misjudgment Chloe has made!  They have to figure out how to tell Ethan.  In the climax, Ethan runs away, and it is in the falling action that the reader’s heart breaks for him.  There is a lot to analyze in 311 pages: new knowledge about autism, sibling relationships when one sibling has special needs, parenting roles with the special-needs child, and so much more.  At times there might be too much for the reader to absorb.  For example, Lazebnik did not have to add the gay issue, but it did help her lend drama to the conversation among Ivy, Ethan and Chloe.  The book was already a winner without that caveat thrown into the plot.  That said, Lazabnik did her research and put together a novel with a necessary message for teenagers relating to the world of special needs, and she captured the emotions of teenagers and their relationships with their peers extraordinarily well.  With sexual innuendo, although not explicit, this book goes into the high-school category.  It is a necessary addition for high-school libraries.

Summary: Chloe tries to help her sister with high-functioning autism find a boyfriend.  Her choice, Ethan, has a brother she likes, the common denominator that they are both the siblings of special-needs teens.  In school, however, Chloe and David have nothing in common.

Special needs-Fiction                                       --Martha Squaresky

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