On the Spectrum

336p. Second Story. Sept. 2017. pap. $13.95. ISBN 9781772600421.
Gr 7 Up—Clara is the daughter of a beautiful, famous, and thin prima ballerina. Clara has been raised by her single mother to fear junk food, and by 17 has developed an obsession with "clean" eating and exercise that is symptomatic of an eating disorder called orthorexia. With the hope that distance from her normal routines will help Clara develop a healthier relationship with food, Clara's mother sends her to live in Paris for the summer, where Clara's father and stepmother could use some help with Alistair, the teen's six-year-old half brother who is "on the spectrum." Most of the book revolves around Clara getting to know this side of her family and building a relationship with Alastair. Clara shows him how to face his fears and teaches him to better understand the world. In turn, the sweet and honest young boy helps Clara overcome her own fears about food. The setting plays an important role in the story, as Paris is known for its culinary delights and its food-loving residents. It also provides a fun backdrop for Clara to have some cultural adventures and—of course—meet a cute boy. This is a light but poignant read. Most characters are well developed, and Gold handles the topics of being on the autism spectrum and orthorexia nervosa competently and sensitively.
VERDICT Recommended as a general purchase for school and public libraries seeking light contemporary fiction that covers more than just romance.

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