Editor’s note: Dudesmama is a non-autistic ally who does a lot of volunteering with The Aspergian behind the scenes.
A review of Echo Miller’s The Insiders Club (Life on the Innside, Book 1)
As an avid reader, I’m always excited to get my hands on any books which showcase autistic characters. However, trepidation always lurks under that excitement, because autism in fiction is a minefield: inaccurate stereotypes, prolific ableism, and ideas which conflict with the neurodiversity movement all conspire to leave me indignant, angry, and dissatisfied by the time I turn the last page.
Thus, when I downloaded The Insiders Club (free with Kindle Unlimited? Yes, please!), there was some cautious skepticism casting a shadow on my generally-unshakable optimism. From the very first chapter, though, I could see that this book was very different from any other “autism” fiction that I have read:
This book restored my faith in humanity.
The use of multiple autistic characters allows for a wider view of the spectrum. While the novel maintains a positive and upbeat tone, it also does not avoid or undermine the reality of the conflicts and emotions that arise from living in a world that was not designed for one’s brain.
I couldn’t put it down.
From the very first words, this book gave me feelings…so many feelings. The reader is introduced to Keegan Harris, an innocent, upbeat, and energetic young autistic man who sets out to “change the world” after the tragic death of his childhood friend.
With the support of his obviously very loving and perfectly-imperfect family, and drawing inspiration from the 1980s classic film, The Breakfast Club, Keegan sets out on a carefully-crafted plan to recruit new best friends to live with him at his family’s freshly-built, progressively- reimagined assisted-living facility for people with disabilities.
His potential new best friends are Copper, a jaded, grief- and guilt-stricken young man who is trying to find his place in the world after the untimely death of his big brother; Jay, an intensely rigid individual with a professorial vocabulary; and Tyler, who is semi-verbal and uses movie scripts to communicate. With such quirky personalities and emotional baggage, chaos reigns and undoubtedly ensures a disruption of Keegan’s itinerary for a pathway to friendship.
I don’t want to give away too much more, because you just need to read this novel.
Everyone needs to read this novel.
I read it in one sitting on a Sunday afternoon, and never before have 268 pages made me feel such a range of emotions. You will laugh. You will feel deep sorrow. You will empathize and sympathize.
Most importantly, you will have hope for a better future.
Buy The Insider’s Club in hardback here
Buy it in paperback here
Buy it from the Kindle Store here