05 September 2014

Stim by Kevin Berry

 Robert is different. He has Asperger's Syndrome. He experiences the world differently to 99% of the population. Follow his entertaining and highly empathetic story as he struggles to realise and accept who he really is, try to understand other people—which he cannot—and find a girlfriend. Especially find a girlfriend—he's decided it's his special project for the year. Accompanied on this transformative journey by his quirky flatmates, Chloe (who also has Asperger's, amongst other things), Stef (who hasn't, but doesn't mind) and their oddly-named kitten, Robert endures a myriad of awkward moments in his quest to meet a nice, normal girl...and not even a major earthquake will stop him.

This absorbing and humorous story is starkly told from Robert's point of view, through the kaleidoscope of autistic experience.

I found this book to be not only entertaining but also very informative regarding what life is like for someone with Asperger’s.  For the purpose of this review I want to say I will be using some of the “slang” terms such as Aspie for a person with the syndrome and NS which is people who are not on the spectrum, in other words people without any form of the syndrome.  We meet Robert and Chloe both with Aspie trying to find their place in a “normal” world.  The main realization that I kept coming back to was how society made up the rules for engagement in social settings, but people with Aspie didn’t get the manual, nor do they understand the language.  An example of this is when Robert was talking about a glass being half full or half empty.  For a NS that means positive or negative but for someone with AS it just means there is still liquid in the glass.  Everything is clear cut, straight forward with them when it comes to verbal communication.  This gets Robert in a lot of trouble, such as the time when he lost his kitten and he was calling for it.  He named the cat Sex; needless to say he spent some time at the police station for that one. 
The story begins with Robert taking the challenge from his best friend Chloe in keeping a journal.  During this time period he takes us to parties that he attends, the medicine he begins, moving from college campus to a place with Chloe and NS friend.  We watch him during events such as natural disasters and the goals he sets for himself.  He has never been connected to other humans so when he meets Chloe his world begins to open up.  He finds the courage in others to venture out and try to become “normal” even though she reminds him what is normal anyway. 
I had to laugh a few times because my husband and daughter are both Aspie and I listen to them talk between themselves about how the rest of the family is so confusing.  While reading Robert’s story I was reminded of the time my husband said he felt like people saw him as an alien because he didn’t know how to play nicey nice with people.  If they ask a question they should expect a direct answer.  This was Robert in a nutshell.  He had no clue how to read between the lines, how to drink out of a bottle when there should be glasses.  Common sense was lost on him because his brain was wired differently.  Crowds would make his brain go foggy like pea soup and sounds would start creating a new tone in his head.  Thinking through a situation took longer than people felt it should so they would look at him like he was abnormal.  You live those moments with him in this book, but you also get to live his accomplishments which were awesome. 
Although the ending felt abrupt, I did like how we were able to see where he was in life after the months with the journal.  What goals he accomplished and what he still struggled with.  The author let us experience the level of acceptance Robert achieved in this time and we could celebrate his victory.  I look forward to starting the next book about his friend Chloe to get her perspective in life.  During this book she was very intriguing with her college courses and her determination to just be who she is, plus it will be nice to get more of her and Robert’s relationship.  They were really made for each other.  


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