Twelve year old Cora Byers is brave and bold. She is also autistic. She knows who she is (and who she isn’t). Life isn’t always easy (especially since she lost her mum) but she’s learned how to cope and make the best of many challenging situations. She understands what makes her different, even if she doesn’t like to talk about it.
When she meets Adrien, the son of her brother’s boss, they become fast friends. Adrien is different too. His brain is wired in its own unique way and runs at its own speed. Unexpected, charming and funny, his ADHD is part of what makes him individual and special.
Through Adrien’s family and her brother’s job, Cora is drawn into a world of artificial intelligence. The Pomegranate Institute believes they can make digital copies of people’s brains and souls. Uploaded onto a computer, perhaps real people can actually live on forever.
This story has a fascinating scientific premise. Issues around ethical science, the value of human life and what happens when people die raise question after question for the reader. As I was pulled through the story, I was forced to stop and think about what I believe to be right and wonder what next twist the plot was going to take.
But this plot is just the scaffolding on which the incredibly powerful meaning of this story sits. Elle McNicoll has not held back with her hard-hitting message of equality, justice, truth and respect. With big, bold statements, this story unpicks the very fabric of who we are and addresses huge questions about identity, strength and what is ‘normal’. Readers are taken on a jaw-dropping, eye-widening, breath-taking journey with Cora and Adrien.
This is a story of being heard.
This is a story of being true to yourself.
This is a story of believing in yourself.
This is a story of being an alien and of fitting in.
This is a story of what is real.
This is a story of human connection.
This is a story of dealing with grief and loss.
This is a story of perspective.
This is a story of knowing who you are.
This is a story of acceptance of self and being able to say, ‘I like me’.
This is a story of challenging those who are wrong.
This is a story of justice.
This is a story of life.
Show Us Who You Are will challenge what many people think they know about neurodiversity – whether it’s being Autistic, having ADHD, or being ‘different’ in some other way. The voices of Cora and Adrien come through loud and clear. So different from Addie in A Kind of Spark, individuality is clear. No two people are the same.
This book deals with big ideas. It’s a challenging, empathy-building Middle Grade novel that will stretch well into the Young Adult age range. Containing a number of intense themes, it is definitely a book that needs careful consideration when recommending it to children. If a reader has experienced the loss of a loved one, they will need support as they grapple with some aspects of the story. Adults must read it first before sharing it with children. There are so many opportunities for discussion and debate laid out as the story progresses that it would make a fantastic class read.
My hope is that as more people read Show Us Who You Are, A Kind of Spark and other books like them, we, as a society, will redefine what is normal and understand that ‘people like us’ is everyone and no one. Everyone is unique, everyone is special, everyone is powerful and everyone is valued.
Thank you to EdPR, Knights Of and Bounce for this incredible book!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Elle McNicoll is a children’s author from Scotland, now living in East London. One of the most exciting new voices in children’s publishing, Elle is a Neurodivergent writer and is passionate about disability rights and #OwnVoices representation. Her debut novel A Kind of Spark was published to critical acclaim in June 2020 and is currently shortlisted for the 2021 Blue Peter Book Awards – the winner will be announced on World Book Day, 4th March 2021. It has also been longlisted for the 2021 Branford Boase Award, and was shortlisted for the 2020 Books Are My Bag Readers Awards.
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