In order for me to tell you I have nothing to say, I have to say it, which means I have something to say.
Do You Think This Is Strange? is being compared to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night (which I haven’t read) and The Rosie Project (which I have). I haven’t run into too many people who haven’t liked The Rosie Project, and I am here to tell you that I loved this one more. It felt so much more genuine and meaningful, while still possessing the humour and feel-good qualities that made people fall in love with The Rosie Project.
Meet Freddy; he is seventeen, he has few friends, he avoids talking to people, and he has autism. His has a rocky relationship with his alcoholic father, and he believes his mother left him because of his autism. He took up boxing at the age of 14 after being on the receiving end of a severe beating following a misunderstanding. When he was 7, he had a best friend named Saskia, and they would see each other every day at therapy. The day his mother left him was also the last day he saw Saskia.
Freddy is attending a new school after having been expelled from his old one, for fighting. He tries to stay out of trouble by not talking to people. but sometimes it seems as though he has no choice.
I realized that my goal for the day wasn’t so different from a deer’s. If the deer gets through a day without getting hit by a car, its day is green. My day is green when I get through it without being hit by a conversation.
I used to think my solution to life was to understand how to talk to other people. In reality, the solution to my life is to understand how to avoid talking to other people.
His lunch table at the cafeteria is usually empty, but one day someone else is sitting there; Saskia. This new Saskia is different from the old one; she no longer smiles or speaks. Freddy sits down with her, and although neither of them speak or even look at each other, it is a new beginning for their friendship.
Saskia’s re-entry into his life, and related events, lead him to slowly remember some things from the time of his Mother’s disappearance, which end up changing the way Freddy sees himself.
I didn’t want to tell him about Saskia Stiles but I didn’t know why. Not knowing my own motivation is unusual and causes me alarm. But I was even more alarmed that there were no threads appearing in my head, asking why I didn’t want to tell him.
Freddy’s text messages back and forth to Saskia are sweet. But, they also serve to give us some insight into Saskia’s character, as well as the ease that Saskia and Freddy feel with each other. Saskia is a poet, and one of my favourite parts of the book is when Saskia asks Freddy to write her a poem. He admits to being too analytical to write poetry; he also doubts his emotions and ability to feel love. But, he spends hours researching poetry and trying to write one for her. In the end, he does pretty well. But, his first try is not so great:
There once was a lady from Nantucket/ Her name was Saskia and she had a bucket/ She was in the lunchroom/ I was in the lunchroom/ And then she ate her lunch so just fucket.
With front row seats to Freddy’s thoughts and ideas as he sifts through his memories, we get to see how he thinks, how he sees the world, and how he has found a way to fit into it. Freddy’s voice is endearing and engaging, and you can’t help but root for him and feel for him every step of the way. His story is both heart-breaking and heart-warming. And, one I don’t think you want to miss out on.
I finally knew the source of my difficulties. Me. The problem was how I was viewed by everyone else. I wasn’t on anyone’s list of Favourite Things. It was because of things I did.
And this book was one of the things that kept me off their list. I had to stop carrying it around, I knew.
I can’t change, I thought.
The better half of me said I didn’t have to. That I only needed to change who other people thought I was. That much, at least, was within my control. I could at least appear to be like everyone else.
I needed to stop flipping pages back and forth when I sat on a bus. In fact, I had to stop a lot more than that. I had to stop repeating – over and over – lines from a movie I saw last night. I would have to listen to more than the one song over and over and over again in a month. Stop talking about non-parallel lines, bad parking jobs. In fact, it might be best to stop talking about anything at all.
I didn’t know why these were the things I needed to stop doing. I didn’t want to stop doing these things. The world, however, wanted me to stop.
So I stopped.
Why should he have to stop?
Aaron Cully Drake is from British Columbia, and this is his first novel. I will be eagerly waiting for his next. I first heard about this book at All Lit Up’s First Friday Fiction. Thank you to Brindle & Glass for providing me with a copy of this book!