Children’s Book Week review – Please don’t hug me by Kay Kerr
This book is notable for the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book of the Year for Older Readers, which is the category of books recommended for secondary school age (13-18 years). It has also been Shortlisted for the ABIA 2021 Book of the Year for Older Children.
A funny-serious own-voices story about what happens when you stop trying to be the person other people expect you to be and give yourself a go.
Erin is looking forward to Schoolies, at least she thinks she is. But things are not going to plan. Life is getting messy, and for Erin, who is autistic, that’s a big problem. She’s lost her job at Surf Zone after an incident that clearly was not her fault. Her driving test went badly even though she followed the instructions perfectly. Her boyfriend is not turning out to be the romantic type. And she’s missing her brother, Rudy, who left almost a year ago.
But now that she’s writing letters to him, some things are beginning to make just a tiny bit of sense.
The main character of Please don’t hug me by Kay Kerr is Erin, an autistic teenager trying to figure out life after high school. The novel is written in the form of honest and open letters from Erin to her brother, who left a year ago.
I love a good epistolary novel! (that’s a book written as a series of documents, such as letters, diary entries, blog posts etc). The first one I read way back in the 80s was The secret diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4 and I also loved So much to tell you when I was school-aged.
The characters in this book are so well-written and realistic. Erin is a true representation of an autistic teenager, and her friends and family are unique and full of personality (whether that be a loving friend, or an awful boyfriend!). The emotions behind each letter enable the reader to identify with Erin and her feelings, whilst she works through them herself.
This book reminded me of one of my favourite YA novels of 2020, Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal. The authors of these two books are friends and have started a newsletter together called The Overshare – “thoughts on writing, neurodivergence, and life’s messy bits”.
About the author
Kay Kerr is an Australian author and this is her first novel. She was writing this book when she was diagnosed with autism, and is passionate about ‘own voices’ writing. Her second novel, Social Queue, is due in October and I look forward to reading it!
What is #ownvoices ?
Basically, this means that an author writing a character from a marginalised group comes from that group themselves. This can be diverse groups such as LGBTQ+, people with disabilities, people with different backgrounds, religious minorities, and more. These voices provide a more diverse perspective. You can read more about own voices here or search the hashtag online.
Want more #ownvoices recommendations?
There are many lists online – Goodreads is a great place to start!
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