ARC (Advance Reading Copy). To be published May 16, 2013. Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin). 227 pp.
Lyn Miller-Lachmann, author of “Gringolandia” enters the world of middle schoolers with “Rogue.” In “Rogue,” readers learn to empathize with Kiara, an 8th grader who tries hard to have friends. No one ever wants to be her friend because they think she’s weird. She keeps track of all new kids hoping one will be her friend, but it never happens. Treated unkindly at school, nicknamed “Crybaby Kiara,” and with a short temper, she is banned from all social gatherings by her peers. After a fight at school, she is forced to become home schooled.
At home, Kiara learns a lot from Mr. Internet, who helps her figure out she has Asperger’s Syndrome. She has all the symptoms, but her too-busy father and absent mother refuse to believe she has any problems. To cope with her changing and confusing world, Kiara creates a parallel version of her life using the X-Men, her favorite superheroes. She gives herself the name “Rogue,” believing the comic book heroine’s life is her own.
When Chad and his little brother move in next door, Kiara is sure her luck has changed. Chad loves to ride his BMX bike on the trails, and she is sure if she shows him around he’ll be her friend. However, despite her best intentions, Chad rebuffs her at every turn while seeming to have some mysterious problems at home. Determined to be his friend, help him, and discover her X-Man Super Power Kiara keeps trying. In time, she realizes their lives are tied together more than she thought, and her hidden power may be the only thing keeping his (and her) head above water.
“Rogue” is a touching and honest look inside the mind of someone with Asperger’s, giving readers insight into their thought patterns and hidden feelings. As an Educator, I gained tips on how to help students who have Asperger’s and how to help others understand them a little better. It is a must read for educators and their students aged 9-14. It would also work well in middle and elementary school book clubs, as having discussions while reading it will help students get “on the same page” with each other and lead to less bullying.