April is National Autism Awareness Month. As a mom, I greatly admire my friends who juggle therapist appointments, doctor visits, school meetings, teacher communications and more for their special needs children. However, aside from admiring my friends, I’m not sure I’ve given autism any real thought. That’s a painfully honest admission, but it’s true. When D.G Driver approached me to review her book, No One Needed To Know, I agreed because I realized I needed to be better educated. This middle grades novel tells the story of a brother and sister relationship; it’s quirky, loving, there is tension, and it’s complicated too.
In No One Needed To Know, we meet 11 year old Heidi. The book is written in first person. Heidi is very athletic and no nonsense. While her friends are interested in make up and boys, Heidi doesn’t get caught up in that stuff. Heidi has a secret: her 16 year old brother, Donald is autistic. Fiercely protective and an attentive sister, Heidi is still a middle school girl who struggles with the awkwardness of understanding her brother, but having friends who REFUSE to get to know him for who he is. This turns brutal as both Donald and Heidi are bullied; they do the best they can. Heidi tries to defend her brother. Donald always sees the best in people; even when they are mean to him without cause.
This book is heart-wrenching. D.G. Driver pulls you in immediately. You see Heidi try to process what is happening. We use the complication of protecting her brother. She works hard not to embarrass him. Heidi loses friends because they misjudge Donald. I admired how much Heidi sees the loss she is experiencing, she sees the unnecessary bullying she is enduring, but she does not back down from defending her brother. I love a strong sibling relationship and No One Needed To Know has done such a good job.
The story takes a turn I didn’t see (I hate spoilers, so I won’t share), but I will say: I cried. As soon as the book ended, I immediately wrote D.G. Driver and thanked her for her book. It’s beautifully done.
While this is a middle grades book, I think parents should read this book. It’s a great way to discuss being kind to friends and their family members. Autism, as well as other special needs should not be seen as “problems” (a teacher in No One Needs To Know addresses this), but as people who can grow our hearts with compassion, empathy and FRIENDSHIP.