Beverley Brenna, Author
Red Deer Press, Fiction, Oct. 30, 2012
Suitable for: Ages 14-17
Themes: Autism Spectrum, Adolescence, Independence, Journey
Synopsis: Taylor Jane Simon, a 19-year-old girl with Asperger’s Syndrome, is back in the conclusion to Beverley Brenna’s Wild Orchid trilogy. Although the books in the series are stand-alone, each story features the spirited and strong-willed Taylor Jane. In The White Bicycle, Taylor travels to the South to the South of France with her mother, where she has a job as a “personal care assistant” for Martin Phoenix, a boy in a wheelchair who is unable to speak without special equipment. She has agreed to take the job because she wants to put in on her resume. She cares for Martin, but her free time is spent traveling the French countryside on her white bicycle, trying to make sense of her past so that she can move forward in her life. Along the way she meets an unlikely mentor who is somewhat of a mirror for Taylor. Taylor has one goal in mind — to become independent.
One of my favorite quotes in Taylor’s journal is a conversation with her mother: “There’s something I have been waiting for in order to be an adult. It’s not having a boyfriend. It’s not taking classes at the university. It’s not getting a job. I have done all of those things and I am going to keep doing them. But they do not make me an adult. I’m not waiting any longer Mom. Because I know what I am waiting for. I am waiting for you…to let me be free.” (p. 183)
Why I like this book/series: First of all, the story is told in first person so that the reader has a front row seat into how Taylor thinks, feels and responds to the world. The story is Taylor’s private daily journal. Brenna has a gift of getting into the mind of her character so that the reader experiences Taylor. Her characters are well-developed and you find yourself cheering for Taylor on her journey. Secondly, this is the first series I have read where we actually follow a teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome, graduating from high school, going to college, getting a job, leaving her comfort zone and traveling to a foreign country, transitioning from adolescence to adulthood before our eyes and struggling to gain independence from her mother. This is a typical response, but even more powerful from a young woman with Asperger’s. With so many children in the Autism Spectrum who will be making this transition in coming years, the Wild Orchid trilogy this is an important story for families, teenagers and teachers. I enjoyed watching Taylor’s steady growth and strong spirit in the series.
Another point of interest point is the beautiful cover art for The White Bicycle. It was done by artist Taylor Crowe, who was diagnosed at a young age with autism. His artistic talent was nurtured by family and therapists. Today he lectures about autism to educators, behavioral therapists, and families — a real success story.
I was first introduced to Wild Orchid and Waiting for No One, by my writing colleague Beth Stilborn , a cousin of the Canadian author. You can read her interview with Brenna by clicking on Beth’s name. You may read my earlier reviews of the first two books, Wild Orchid and Waiting for No One by clicking on the books. There also is an interview with Brenna at the end of the The White Bicycle.
Update: Beverley Brenna was awarded the Printz Award on July 15, 2013 by the American Library Association for her novel, The White Bicycle. The Printz Award is given for the “best book written for teens.” Click on the Printz Award to see the article.
For more information on helping your teenager make the transition to adulthood, contact Austism Speaks for their helpful “Transition Tool Kit.” Over one-half million children will make this transition from adolescence to adulthood, and they will want to be independent, have homes, jobs and friends.