An autistic girl and socially-awkward boy team up to solve a crime and absolve an innocent man.
Me and Sam-Sam Handle the Apocalypse by Susan Vaught. Paula Wiseman Books (Simon & Shuster), 2019, 309 pages
Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 10-12
Recommended for: ages 10-14
When the tornado hit, Jesse was being bullied by the usual trio—Chris, Trisha, and Ryker, a.k.a. Jerkface and the Cockroaches. Then the siren sounded and the sky went greenish and all heck broke loose—
But back up one week, when the real trouble started. Jesse’s mom is on deployment in Iraq, her great-aunt Gustine (Gus) is the resident mom, and Sam-Sam, her Pomeranian is her furry little soulmate. Her dad teaches English at Avery (Kentucky) High School and the trouble started when he was accused to stealing over $2,000 from the Library Fund. Jesse knows he wouldn’t steal anything but how can she prove it? She has certain strengths—a whiz at numbers—but certain limitations too. She doesn’t pick up on body language or verbal clues, and still experiences meltdowns in times of stress. Fortunately, her new friend Springer Regal has the emotional intelligence she lacks. Together, they might be able to find the real thief.
Jesse tells her own story and her voice seems authentic and original. Her trash talk about the “Cockroaches” gets a bit wearying, but they are bullies. Later on she will gain some insight into why they are that way. The friendship dynamic between her and Springer is unique and interesting, though he shows extraordinary perceptiveness for a boy his age. “Neurodiversity” is hot in children’s publishing now, due to the rise of children on the autism spectrum, and this is a sympathetic look from the inside of a brain that processes differently.
Cautions: Language (mild vulgarity, such as “butthead,” “pissed,” and one “ass”)
Overall Rating: 4 (out of 5)
- Worldview/moral value: 3.5
- Artistic value: 4.5