It's been an unreasonable amount of time since I read both of these books, and at this point I just want to get around this brain block I seem to have developed and make sure I've put my thoughts about them out there!
The theme for this year's International Women's Day was #choosetochallenge, and Elle McNicholl's new book, Show Us who You Are has a strong focus on challenging the way that society is set up to value neurotypical people more than the neurodivergent. The protagonist is Cora, a 12 year old autistic girl who meets Adrien and becomes best friends with him almost against her will. His father owns Pomegranate, a company using AI to enable people to 'live forever', and as the book progresses Cora is drawn further and further into the Pomegranate world and the increasingly dark things it entails. Throughout the book she is almost constantly underestimated by those around her - by her Dad and brother because they want to protect her, and by others because they think she won't be able to 'handle' certain things because of her autism. Both this book and McNicholl's debut, A Kind of Spark, focus on this constant underestimation and how easily some neurotypical people (especially those in authority, and in these books especially teachers and even doctors) fall into the thinking that being neurotypical somehow makes you better, and being neurodivergent means you're broken and need to be fixed, helped or saved. It's infuriating but our society is set up to work for neurotypical people and it's rare to find places where consideration for the neurodivergent community is actually taken into account (when that isn't the specific reason for a space's existence). Show Us Who You Are is a beautiful, thought provoking book that made me rage-cry and feel a huge amount of joy and pride in the protagonist as she goes through the various things that happen over the course of the book. I'm not going to lie, I actually hugged the book when I finished it and I'm going to be encouraging everyone to read it. Order it from Knights Of here.
My second pick for March book of the month was Where Stands a Winged Sentry by Margaret Kennedy, published by Handheld Press. This is the wartime diaries of Margaret Kennedy from 1940-41 which is a really interesting period and one we don't hear a lot about (or at least I've not read a lot about it). It covers the part of the Second World War when it started to look like the German's might actually win - France is occupied and Britain is suddenly very alone. These diaries are a beautiful combination of bleakness and fear, paired with everyday things and the general hilarity which can be found in small daily stories. Handheld Press publish beautiful books, and they specialise in out of print and forgotten women writers. This is the first time I'd heard of Margaret Kennedy, but included in the book (and in all of Handheld Press's books) is a brilliant introduction giving context and background information about the author and the book's publication history - in this case it's the first time these diaries have been published in the UK after they were sent to the USA for safekeeping by the author. They've been published in America but never here until now, and it's a brilliant thing that we can now get them here! I have to say that parts of this book I found absolutely hilarious. I read bits out to my husband probably much more than he would have liked, but it's so unexpected given the subject matter. One minute she's talking about how terrifying it is to contemplate a German invasion, and the next about the various quirks of the people in the seaside town she and her children have evacuated themselves to, or about her sister who refuses to acknowledge that there's even a war happening at all. One of the things I found most interesting about Where Stands a Winged Sentry is how politically aware Margaret Kennedy seemed to be. She and her husband have travelled widely before the war, and she seems very much to know the sorts of terrible things that Hitler is capable of, which I found very interesting because at school I was always taught that people only knew how awful he was in retrospect. The older I get, the more cause I have to question many of the things I was taught in school, so this is not too much of a surprise! The writing in this book is beautiful, funny and very engaging from start to finish, and I definitely want to read more of Margaret Kennedy's writing. You can order it from Handheld Press here.
The Indie Book Network is a review platform dedicated to enhancing the visibility of independently published books across all genres. If you'd like to be involved as a reviewer or a publisher, you can read more here.
Get more indie bookish news, plus exclusive discounts, offers and theme reveals in our twice monthly newsletters.