When My Heart Joins the Thousand

352p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Feb. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062656476.
RedReviewStarGr 10 Up—Alvie is 17. She enjoys her routine of working at the zoo, coming home to her apartment, playing on her laptop, and going to the park near her home. After running away from foster care, she has been living on her own and is eager to be legally emancipated. Sitting in the park one day, she sees a boy (Stanley) throw his cell phone into the pond. She rescues the phone, emails him, and an online friendship quickly develops. When Stanley wants to meet in person, Alvie asks him if they can have sex. Although nothing is consummated, a romantic relationship starts to build between them. When Stanley tells Alvie he loves her, she panics and cuts off contact with him. This sends her into a spiral, which ultimately results in her losing her job and becoming homeless. It is only after she reconnects with Stanley and faces the truth about her past that she can find happiness. Flashbacks to Alvie's childhood, her difficulties at school, and her relationship with her mother add depth and understanding to her character. Her meltdowns and behavioral quirks (an interest in rabbits, a love of the book Watership Down) add dimension to what is a fully realized portrayal of a person living with Asperger's. As her romantic foil, Stanley's character is initially a little too perfect, but as the story progresses it is made clear that he struggles with his own issues. This is a love story that could also appeal to adult readers. Their love is hard-fought and deservedly earned.
VERDICT Recommended for all YA collections.

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