I will be reading a ton more middle grade novels this year, so prepare for some children’s book goodness! I recently read Real, an Own Voices book about Charity, an autistic girl, and her experience in a school district that so far has not supported her at all. When Charity is given the resources she needs to share her voice, she is able to fight back against the injustice she and her classmates have faced.

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The summary, from Amazon:

Inspired by a true story, Real speaks to all those who’ve ever felt they didn’t belong and reminds readers that all people are worthy of being included.

My name is Charity. I am thirteen years old. Actually, thirteen years plus eighty-seven days. I love sour gummies and pepperoni pizza. That last part no one knows because I have not spoken a sentence since I was born. Each dawning day, I live in terror of my unpredictable body that no one understands.

Charity may have mad math skills and a near-perfect memory, but with a mouth that can’t speak and a body that jumps, rocks, and howls unpredictably, most people incorrectly assume she cannot learn. Charity’s brain works differently from most people’s because of her autism, but she’s still funny, determined, and kind. So why do people treat her like a disease or ignore her like she’s invisible?

When Charity’s parents enroll her in a public junior high school, she faces her greatest fears. Will kids make fun of her? Will her behavior get her kicked out? Will her million thoughts stay locked in her head forever? With the support of teachers and newfound friends, Charity will have to fight to be treated like a real student.

Buy Real here.

First, I have to say how excited I was to read Real once I found out it was #OwnVoices. I know there are social media movements calling for more books by #ActuallyAutistic authors, so I really appreciated reading this book. Peyton Goddard is an inclusion advocate who had a similar experience to Charity.

I think Real is a lovely story that a lot of kids could benefit from or appreciate. The authors make it clear that children, especially children with disabilities, are vulnerable and deserving of advocacy and the stage to advocate for themselves. I loved how Charity drew inspiration from the Civil Rights movement and the chapter that detailed music therapy and other techniques Charity, her teachers, and her parents used. While scenes of abuse at Charity’s old school, Borden, were heart-breaking, this does happen and kids should be aware of it, or might see this book as a mirror for their own unjust experiences. Finally, this book shows that adults can be bullies too.

On the other hand, I did find a lot of this book to be unrealistic. As a former teacher, I know Charity would have an IEP that her teachers at her new school would have to honor, whether they felt like it or not. Also, the final trial scene would never happen in real life. Students’ privacy is very important. I also felt like some of the portrayals of women, especially cheerleaders, were bordering on misogynistic.

Overall, this was a heartwarming and empowering read, and I am thankful for the chance from NetGalley, the authors, and the publishers to read it. I rate it 3 stars.

Find out more about how I rate books here.

RealReal by Carol Cujec
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Real is an OwnVoices book, which I absolutely love. While I don’t think it’s completely realistic, I did enjoy this heartwarming and empowering read. I do know there is a stigma surrounding disabled folks, that they are only smart or worthy if they are able to learn certain things, and I worry a little that this book perpetuates that stigma. My thanks to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for giving me a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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Book Club Questions

  1. Why did Charity’s first teacher treat her and her classmates so poorly at Borden?
  2. How are Charity’s new classmates, including Mason, good friends to her?
  3. Why does Charity feel frustrated when her parents are asking her all her favorite things?
  4. Why is Darcy so mean to Charity? Is it just because Charity is different than her, or is there something else influencing how Darcy behaves?


Interested? Buy Real.
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