Book Review: Please Don’t Hug Me by Kay Kerr

Please Don't Hug Me by Kay Kerr

Title: Please Don’t Hug Me

Author: Kay Kerr

Genre: Realistic YA Fiction

Number of Pages: 288

Rating: A

Recommended?: Yes

Please Don’t Hug Me is one of the best books on the subject of Asperger’s Syndrome I’ve ever read, and I’d like to think I’ve read a fair few. The protagonist Erin was wonderfully endearing and flawed and I was invested in her story from the first chapter. It is also obvious from the beginning that the book is #Ownvoices, because the author obviously gets it and doesn’t rely on stereotypes or stock ‘Asperger’s’ traits. I don’t mind books that aren’t #Ownvoices if they’re well-written (for instance, I still love The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) but there was a strong sense of authenticity to this one.

Erin is a teenage girl on the autism spectrum who is having a hard time. She’s right on the cusp of adulthood and she’s dating a guy who doesn’t appreciate her, feeling isolated from her peers, and struggling with the absence of her brother. The novel is told in the epistolary format of journal entries her therapist asks her to watch. Erin feels like she’s being left behind by her classmates, because things like social interaction and employment seem to come so much easier to them.

She tends to be stubborn and blunt with people and that gets her fired at the beginning of the story. Please Don’t Hug Me is not a plot-driven story, instead focusing on the inner life of a girl who is written as a individual first and an autistic person second. I found myself relating to her so much, especially when it came to her more flawed qualities. I read most of this book on a long car ride to North Carolina and it held my interest completely.

One minor criticism I have is that the sort-of twist near the end was pretty predictable and had strong similarities to another recent novel with a Neurodiverse main character (I won’t give the title but if anyone’s curious they can ask me.) The author also tried too hard sometimes to show Erin taking responsibility for bad things she’d done to other people when I thought they should have taken some responsibility themselves. I’m specifically thinking of a scene where Erin goes partying with a couple of girls and gets drunk, and they leave her without the key to the house they’re staying in because they met some guys and want to get laid.

Erin has an epic blow-up and calls them ‘sluts’ and then there’s a long drama with her trying to get her friend back and apologizing for calling her that word. Even though Erin definitely behaved badly and ‘slut’ is a nasty word I think her friend should have apologized for leaving a drunk autistic girl in an unfamiliar environment without a house key, which is selfish and potentially very dangerous.

Nobody except Erin gets mad at this girl and all Erin’s mom cares about is that she called her friend that word. I guess many readers might not agree with me on that one but I thought it was unfair for Erin to take all of the blame. Anyway, Please Don’t Hug Me is one of my favorite books of the year (top 10, easily) and I can’t wait to see what this author does next.

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