Best Boy; Eli Gottlieb
W.W. Norton - 2015
The "Best Boy" in this novel is Todd Aaron who is autistic. For the last 40 years he has made his home at the Payton Living Center for individuals on the autism spectrum. Todd was just 11 years old when his mother dropped him off there telling him to be, "the best boy ever." Todd always thought he'd be going home, but that never happened. His mother has since passed away and he has infrequent phone calls from his brother and even less frequent visits from him since he lives 700 miles away.
Now called the "old fox" since he's been at Payton the longest. Todd's life is best when routines are followed. He is obsessed with reading the encyclopedia, follows rules well and has never been a problem for the staff there. He works around the facility as well, Except for a disruptive roommate who had a way of setting him off, a one-eyed female who is interested in Todd and a new caretaker called Mike the Apron, who Todd takes an instant dislike to his life at Payton has been pretty good.
Through this story readers get a good picture of what life is like for an adult with autism, and how sights, sounds and change of most any kind can really set the individual off. The story is told in the first person voice of Todd which took some getting used to, especially when his mind and emotions were racing or jumbled. At times Todd seemed like a sympathetic character, but at other times he seemed stereotypical. The story jumps around a bit from Todd's early years at home with his mother, an abusive father and vindictive younger brother and then his time living with other individuals with autism.
I liked this book well enough but the writing style made me read this one a few chapters at a time over a period of a few weeks. I think this novel will have the greatest appeal to readers interested in stories about individuals with autism,