Book Review – A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll

books, reviews

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once again, I found myself in a situation where I needed to listen to an audiobook so I had a book to review. These days, I’m normally reading until Thursday when I have to write my Friday review. Then it’s just not possible to finish a whole book before my next review. This is what happens out of lockdown. I’m so bloody busy. Is this what life was like before? Thankfully, there are plenty of free audiobooks available with my Audible membership. I picked one I’ve seen around for ages and was short enough to finish at work.

Ensuring all types of people are represented in books is not just important for the people being represented. Everyone needs to see different people. This is especially true for children’s fiction. Books are a great way to teach kids in a digestible way. In A Kind of Spark, Elle McNicoll does a fantastic job of explaining what life might feel like for an autistic person.

In this case, an 11-year-old girl called Addie. The story isn’t just about life as a neurodivergent girl. It’s about her campaign to get a memorial to all of the women burned as witches in her town. Addie struggles to get the townspeople to listen to her as almost everyone dismisses her because of her autism. Thankfully, there’s a new girl at school who seems keen to help. Can Addie and Audrey make their voices heard?

I absolutely love the way Elle McNicoll approaches this story. The parallels she draws between the women tried as witches and people with special needs are incredibly effective. It’s an incredibly emotional and heart-wrenching book. Addie is a wonderful character and you can’t help but love her. You’ll feel angry at the way she is treated and you’ll finish off wanting to make the world a more inviting place for everyone.

This isn’t an overly sweet fairy tale of an autistic girl overcoming adversity. Inevitably, that’s part of it but there is a lot of harsh reality here. You don’t get shielded from the mistreatment that Addie faces. She is bullied by her fellow students and her teachers. Addie is lucky enough to have an older sister who also has autism, so she has someone to explain things to her. Her sister wasn’t so lucky.

Elle McNicoll is autistic and she does an absolutely incredible job of explaining how Addie feels. Things that are normally invisible to you suddenly become unbearable. Sounds, lighting, smells and so many things neurotypical people can ignore become painful to Addie. This book left me with a greater insight into autism than reading nonfiction would have done. This is a great resource for young readers. Not only is this a really fun and well-written story. It’s an important one.

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