A review by seawarrior
A Kind of Spark, by Elle McNicoll

emotional inspiring tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated


A Kind of Spark is a sparkling debut that will serve to make a whole generation of autistic kids feel less lonely, and never worthless. Addie's story is not only informative in the straightforward ways necessary to increase empathy for autistic people, but shows her learning to make sense of the depth of her emotions and why some narratives affect her so deeply, so that she may own her story and tell it for herself. I'll admit that it took me three tries to get through this book, as the bullying Addie experiences from both her teacher and her peers was so upsetting to read. Yet I think describing these expressions of bigotry is important to guide young people to grow into adults who are primed to recognize ableism in all its manifestations, and prepared to fight against it.

In her older sister Keedie, Addie has her own guide of how to recognize and respond to ableism. Keedie, also autistic, is hinted to have endured even more ableism as a young girl, and serves in her early adulthood as the protective figure Addie needs that she never had herself. I found their relationship extremely endearing and relevant, as there are a number of autistic adults who are so interested in improving the treatment of autistic children because we know that while some things are too late for us, these children still have an opportunity to grow up in a kinder world. Yet as Keedie aptly points out, autistic people of all ages have our valuable perspectives regularly dismissed or met with hatred for a number of paradoxical reasons, and some of us end up permanently institutionalized for our inability to mask as neurotypical. These are difficult and upsetting concepts for children to have to make sense of, but I don't think comprehension is beyond them. A Kind of Spark lays out an age appropriate foundation for young people to see the ableist injustices of today for what they are, an unwinnable system as nonsensical and unacceptable as the witch trials of hundreds of years prior. 

I highly recommend this book to other readers of all ages, and would love to see it added to school reading lists and utilized in the classroom. Though Addie's story has a rough start, it ends on an empowering note reminding those of us who are persecuted for our differences that we are worth having our stories told and remembered. 

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