In her debut novel, Katya Balen uses her knowledge of autism and experience working with autistic people to create an intriguing and intense yet always respectful family story.
I think I started crying on about page 23 of this gorgeous but heart-breaking book and hardly stopped.
When the tragedy referred to in the blurb happened, I was a complete and utter mess and had to put the book down for a couple of days to recover before I could continue.
Frank loves soccer, codes, riding his bike, and playing with his friends. His brother Max is five. Max only eats foods that are beige or white, hates baths, and if he has to wear a t-shirt that isn’t gray with yellow stripes he melts down down down.
Frank longs for the brother he was promised by his parents before Max was born–someone who was supposed to be his biggest fan, so he could be the best brother in the world. Instead, Frank has trouble navigating Max’s behavior and their relationship. But when tragedy strikes, Frank finds a way to try and repair their fractured family and in doing so learns to love Max for who he is.
Told through the eyes of Frank, the 10-year-old brother of 5-year-old non-verbal, autistic Max, The Space We’re In is so wonderfully written.
It’s the story of all siblings of children with special needs who get less attention because their brother or sister needs more.
It’s the story of Frank and Max coming to terms with each other themselves and the world.
Written by Katya Balen and illustrated by Laura Carlin, this is categorised as children’s fiction but I highly recommend it to adults as well. Reading children’s fiction is so often a fabulous way to remember what the world looks like from a child’s perspective.
The Space We’re In, by Katya Balen, was published by Bloomsbury Publishing in 2019. It’s available now from all good bookstores or your local library.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of review.