Author: Kim Slater
Genre: Middle Grade Realistic Fiction
Number of Pages: 240
Kieran is a young British boy who seems to be on the autism spectrum, even though the book doesn’t outright diagnose him as such. He loves his mom but lives in fear of her abusive boyfriend Tony and Tony’s thuggish son, Ryan. One day Kieran sees a homeless man floating in a river and becomes convinced he was murdered.
An extremely gifted artist, he uses his abilities to try to solve the case of the man’s death. Smart reminded me a little bit of The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time, because of the mystery element coupled with the protagonist’s innocent and literal mind. I was afraid that Smart would feel too much like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time lite, but I ended up really enjoying it.
Kieran’s narrative is alternately funny, sad and relatable and the things that make him ‘different’ also help him to survive in a cold and unyielding environment. The story itself is pretty implausible, as is usually the case with books about amateur detectives (there’s no reason for Kieran to actually go on the assumption that the victim was murdered and it seems even less likely that he’d be right and be able to PROVE he was right.)
I was okay with that, though- you basically just need to suspend disbelief and I think that’s something most avid readers (and movie watchers, and TV watchers, and anybody who loves fiction) gets used to doing. I’ve read a lot of books with protagonists who are on the spectrum and this book managed to set itself apart. I mean, it had derivative elements but nothing that overwhelmed my enjoyment of the story. I’m interested in reading all of Kim Slater’s books now and I hope her other young protagonists are as charming and likable as Kieran.