In reading a ton of middle grade novels in 2021, I struggled to find on with an autistic character that was actually good. I was so happy when a coworker represented A Kind of Spark to me. Though the bullying in this one is rough, I really appreciated the authentic voice and the main character’s perseverance.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. When you click on and/or purchase from some links, I make a portion of the sale. This helps keep Bitch Bookshelf running.

Find out more about how I review books here.

The summary, from Amazon:

A KIND OF SPARK tells the story of 11-year-old Addie as she campaigns for a memorial in memory of the witch trials that took place in her Scottish hometown. Addie knows there’s more to the story of these ‘witches’, just like there is more to hers. Can Addie challenge how the people in her town see her, and her autism, and make her voice heard? A story about friendship, courage and self-belief, perfect for fans of The Goldfish Boy.

“A REMARKABLE DEBUT” – The Sunday Times: Book of the Week

“Definitive and funny” Susin Nielsen
“A fabulous, brilliant debut” Lisa Thompson

Buy A Kind of Spark here.

A Kind of Spark is about Addie. Addie is autistic and faces some bullying at school, including from her teacher. (Note: One student does use the “r” word in writing to describe Addie at one point, but it is made evident that this is not okay.) Addie stands up for herself, which I really admired. Addie has a loving and supportive family family, especially her big sister Keedie who is also autistic. Keedie and her twin often butt heads. The two older sisters are college-age.

Addie learns more about the witch trials that took place in her hometown and wants to create a memorial for these women. She recognizes that they were misunderstood and outsiders, and that were she to live hundreds of years ago, she may have been labeled a witch too. Her town disagrees since it’s ugly history, but Addie is passionate about her project and receives support from a friend and family.

One quote I loved from this story is:

People aren’t like books. A familiar book is always the same: always comforting and full of the same words and pictures. A familiar person can be new and challenging, no matter how many times you try and read them.

I will note that I felt some of what happened in this book wasn’t how things would happen (or at least are supposed to happen) in the United States. However, I don’t know much about the government or school system in Scotland so I can’t speak for the authenticity.

Elle McNicoll offers a strong, memorable voice in this novel. I’m so glad I got the chance to read in in 2021 and rate it 5 stars.

Find out more about how I rate books here.

A Kind of SparkA Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Elle McNicoll lends a strong, authentic voice to Addie’s story. I loved that this book showed adults can be bullies too. Keedie, Addie’s big sister, is such a memorable character.

View all my reviews

Book Club Questions

  1. Do you think Keedie had a similar or different experience than Addie growing up? How might things have changed since her time in school?
  2.  Why is Addie so passionate about creating a memorial to the women who were killed in the witch trials?
  3. How does Addie deal with bullying? What support systems does she have?

Interested? Buy A Kind of Spark.
And don’t forget to add me as a friend on Goodreads!