Do You Think This Is Strange?
In Cully Drake's outstanding debut, it takes punching the quarterback, getting expelled and being reunited with a long lost friend for 17-year-old Freddy to realize there's a strange lapse in his memory. Communicating and relating to people is an everyday struggle for Freddy who is autistic. A decade after their last autism group therapy session together, Saskia Stiles remains high on Freddy's numbered list of favorite things. Reunited at his new high school, Saskia mutedly forces Freddy to confront the past. The way Drake weaves pieces of past and present together is accomplished and clever. Freddy's preoccupations with numbers, events, and thoughts are stereotypical of autistic leads, but Freddy's thought ‘threads' and strategies to express emotions are presented quirkily but with a high level of grace and understanding. While some of Freddy's interpretations of behaviors are clearly included for humorous impact, they're never disrespectful. The relationship between Saskia and Freddy is everything teen romance readers yearn for, but complex enough for adult readers. With an enthralling character voice, an atypical narrative structure, and an unexpected mystery, Drake's first outing sets a high bar for his next. (May)