As a non-autistic person I thought this book described an autistic person with delicacy, honesty, humour, and self-love. Although I haven’t read a lot of books with autistic main characters it’s too easy for them to be used as a crutch, or the butt of a joke. Helen Hoang has been diagnosed with autism and it’s clear that Stella, while perhaps not written exactly from life, she was certainly written from the heart.
Stella may be autistic but she is also every person who has ever been anxious, or made to feel anxious, about relationships and their romantic interactions with their persons of preference. She is all of us, at one point or another to a greater or lesser extent. We need more Stellas, and we need more people who aren’t autistic to read about Stellas.
On to the book itself: this is a wonderfully crafted romance novel. We go through the motions one would expect from the genre “the meetcute”, “the build up”, “the blooming love”, “the Misunderstanding”, “the interfering/well-meaning families/friends”, and “the resolution”. But it’s so well done, you don’t mind. And, although my experience of romance novels is limited, my experience of romance movies is greater and I can guarantee you that the Misunderstanding seemed genuine. Both these characters had their hang ups and they were blinded by them and the resolution felt quite natural. My only slight quibble was that Matthew’s choice of manner in overcoming the Misunderstanding didn’t seem quite in keeping with his character but, eh, no big deal.
Also, this book is NSFW. At all. The NSFW parts are beautifully written, totally consensual, and you can feel a real bond between the characters but do not read this at work unless you can hold it close to your nose in the staffroom or you have a private office! You have been warned!