On The Spectrum
Author: Jennifer Gold
Publisher: Second Story Press
Genre/Themes/Demo: YA, Contemporary, Fiction
Release Date: September 12th 2017
Page Count: 336
*Disclaimer: An ARC of On The Spectrum by Jennifer Gold was provided to me by Second Story Press in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinion in any way.
Initial Post Reading Thoughts
On The Spectrum is a beautiful coming of age story that I really enjoyed. It deals with many topics including eating disorders, autism and discovering yourself. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this story when I first picked up this novel, but I’m so glad I decided to give this one a chance!
Growing up in the shadow of a famous mother, Clara has never felt good about her body. Now, at sixteen, she has an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. After a social media disaster, she decides to escape for the summer to Paris to stay with her estranged dad and her six-year-old brother, Alastair, who is on the autism spectrum. Charged with his care, Clara and Alastair set out to explore the city. Paris teaches Clara about first love and gives her a new love of food. And Alastair teaches Clara about patience, trust and the beauty of loving without judgment.
What I Liked
Family. I loved that On The Spectrum had a large focus on family. One of the main reasons I decided to read this ARC was because of the mention of a young girl spending time with her father and half brother in another country. I knew going into it that there was going to be a romantic element to the story, but I loved that this element took a backseat. It was refreshing to see a young adult contemporary mostly focus on familial relationships over romantic ones.
Autism spectrum. I can’t say for certain that I have ever read a novel that features a character who is on the autism spectrum before. I did recently watch Atypical which also featured a character who is on the spectrum and I feel like more of these stories need to exist. While I don’t personally know anyone who is on the spectrum, I feel like I learned a lot about it through this novel. I can’t speak to the accuracy of how this character is depicted in this novel, but I enjoyed reading about this character and his story.
Eating Disorders. On The Spectrum features a character with an eating disorder that I’ve never heard of before. Orthorexia is an obsession with eating foods that one considers healthy or a medical condition in which the sufferer systematically avoids specific foods in the belief that they are harmful. It was nice to see a disorder that’s probably pretty common, but that I’ve never heard of, being talked about in a novel.
Atmosphere. I’ve never been to Paris, but On The Spectrum made me really want to visit someday. It seems like such a wonderful place to be and this novel really did have the perfect atmosphere.
Use of French language. Nothing bothers me more than a film or novel that takes place in a foreign country and everyone is speaking English. I get that some people may actually know how to speak the language…but still, I’d like a little authenticity now and again. While some of the French people that Clara meets in Paris can speak English, they also throw in a few French words here and there. Or in other cases, the author makes it clear that they are pronouncing English words with French accents. It just made this story feel slightly more real which was wonderful.
What I Didn’t Like
Insta-Love. Yeah, so this is my biggest pet peeve in contemporary novels. I’m more of a slow burn kind of person. I tried to jump on board with the romance in this one, but I really struggled with it unfortunately. It kind of just happened too fast.
Overall, I’m really glad I decided to pick up On The Spectrum by Jennifer Gold! It was a refreshing contemporary read that featured some pretty serious topics. I’ll definitely be looking out for more from this author in the future!
Exclusive Q&A with Jennifer Gold!
Where did you draw your inspiration from for this novel? Good question! I’ve always wanted to write something set in Paris, and you can’t write about Paris without writing about all the delicious food. So, I gave some thought to how I could do this creatively. I’ve known a few people who suffer from orthorexia, and wanted to shed some light on this increasingly common but lesser-known eating disorder. The character of Alistair seemed like a perfect counterpoint to Clara and he sort of walked into my mind, fully-formed. I thought it would be a great way to teach people about autism spectrum disorder in a positive way.
What kind of research/planning do you do (if any) before writing a novel and how long do you usually spend doing it? I research as I go. Some days I will sit down to write and end up spending most of it doing research, like when I had to research sensory processing issues in children on the spectrum. For planning, I start with a loose outline of about half the story, which I constantly revise.
I know they say not to judge a book by its cover, but I love the cover for On The Spectrum. How much say do you have in the creative process of your book covers? On the Spectrum’s cover is frankly gorgeous. I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw it. Typically how it works in my experience is the publisher will present me with some initial ideas, and then I can give my thoughts and offer opinions. For example, I was presented with different colour schemes for the watercolours on Spectrum’s cover, and I voted for the current rainbow motif.
Have you ever loved a book so much, but literally have seen no one talk about it? What is your favourite under-appreciated novel? A couple years back I read Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner and it blew me away. It won a couple major awards in the UK but here no one has read it or heard of it. It’s fantastic, I highly recommend it.
What advice do you have for any aspiring authors? Read everything, write often, and don’t get discouraged. Rejection is a huge part of being a writer, as is learning to swallow and accept criticism in a dignified manner. Discipline, confidence, and perseverance are as if not more important than talent.
Thank you Jennifer, for answering all of my burning questions!
About The Author
I’m a writer, lawyer, teacher, and mom of two living in Toronto, Canada. I’ve studied psychology, law, and public health at York, McGill, and Harvard Universities. When not working, writing or chasing my kids, I can usually be found devouring YA novels and eating chocolate.
Thank you for reading!