On the Spectrum

Reviewed by Melanie on September 12, 2017


This book begins with Clara, a high school student with a famous ballerina mother at school. Clara has been called to the office to discuss her “eating habits” or lack thereof. The beginning of the story is interesting enough, but drags trying to build up to the main storyline. Once a social media incident occurs, Clara heads to Paris to spend her summer her father, stepmother, and half-brother Alastair, who is on the spectrum.

Once in Paris, Clara learns a lot, not only about herself, but the father she doesn’t know and her half brother. I personally loved the relationship between Clara and Alastair, and it’s development.

The characters in this book are well written, and seem realistic and for the most part likable. I actually felt disdain for Clara and her mother’s relationship, which I’m sure was how the story is supposed to make you feel about their relationship. Clara’s avoidance of her mother once in Paris seems a bit odd, even if they are not in the best place. If I was sixteen and shipped across the world to stay with people I really didn’t know, I probably would have wanted to
speak to my mother just to have some sense of normalcy, even if the relationship was strained overall.

Alastair is well written, but many aspects of his Autism seem generic. I have a son who is “on the spectrum” and while there are a lot of similarities, some times Alastair seems to be extremely high functioning, and then drops to very low functioning. I tried to take into account that the is only six, but at times I felt like the author was just checking off symptoms she wanted to make sure were included. Overall I loved the development of Clara and Alastair’s relationship.

I feel like the story ended on a high note, but wish that there was a more definitive ending, or even an epilogue. I feel like the ending came up quickly and didn’t really address a lot of the issues. The open ending lets the reader come up with their own ending, in which I feel that perhaps Clara has restored her relationships with her family and food. That being said, what if her eating disorder continues, and like her mother, she works herself into horrible health before she’s even twenty.

Questions I would like to have answered are:
1. Did Clara receive professional help for her eating disorder, or did she just “wing it” like she seemed to do throughout the book.
2. Did her mother become a teacher, and recover completely? After a lifetime of dancing, how does she move on?
3. Did Clara and Michel try the long distance thing or just leave as friends?
4. Did Clara move to France for college? Does she see Alastair and her father on a regular basis?

I also feel like Mag (which maybe is a nickname, but seems odd) didn’t really add to the story other than being a “crunchy mom” forcing Alastair to continue to be different even though he was being bullied. She left for long amounts of time and seemed sprinkled into the story as an after thought only to antagonize Clara.

Overall, great story, nice quick read and enjoyable characters.

On the Spectrum Book Cover On the Spectrum
Jennifer Gold
Young Adult, Contemporary, Health, Mental Health
Second Story Press
September 12, 2017
Kindle eBook

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.

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