My name is Charity. I am thirteen years old. Actually, thirteen years plus eighty-seven days. I love sour gummies and pepperoni pizza. That last part no one knows because I have not spoken a sentence since I was born. Each dawning day, I live in terror of my unpredictable body that no one understands.
Charity may have mad math skills and a near-perfect memory, but with a mouth that can’t speak and a body that jumps, rocks, and howls unpredictably, most people incorrectly assume she cannot learn. Charity’s brain works differently from most people’s because of her autism, but she’s still funny, determined, and kid. So why do people treat her like a disease or ignore her like she’s invisible?
When Charity’s parents enroll her in a public junior high school, she faces her greatest fears. Will kids make fun of her? Will her behavior get her kicked out? Will her million thoughts stay locked in her head forever? with the support of teachers and newfound friends, Charity will have to fight to be treated like a real student.
Inspired by a true story, Real speaks to all those who’ve ever felt they didn’t belong and reminds readers that all people are worthy of being included.
I don’t think I’ve ever read a book quite like this one. I’ve read books that have touched me in a similar way, but this one seemed really real to me. I loved the way it was written. And the message is beautiful.
Charity is the main character. The whole story is told from her perspective. What’s different about Charity is that she can’t speak. The reader knows what she’s thinking through her thoughts. Charity is not dumb in any way. She simply can not speak. And that leads those around her to treat her as though she isn’t there or to be unkind to her in so many ways. Those parts of this book were sad. And sadder still, I know there are people out there who are treated in this exact way. No one should be treated like that.
But the great thing about Charity’s story is that it’s a triumph story. I loved when her parents first were able to understand her a little bit. They wanted to get to know everything about her all at once and that was beautiful. They fought for Charity’s right to be educated. And for her to be treated the same as every other kid her age. And Charity fought too. She fought for those like her. Or those who were worse off then she was.
My hope is that every teenager and their parents would read this one. I think we’d have a lot kinder world out there if they did.
I was sent a copy of Real as a gift from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
About the authors
Carol Cujec, PhD, has worked as a writer and educator for more than two decades. Her own teaching and parenting experiences have given her welcomed insights into celebrating neurodiversity. Carol lives in San Diego with her husband, three children, and a mischievous orange tabby.
Peyton Goddard knows how it feels to be labeled as incapable of learning. For twenty-two years, her unpredictable body and inability to speak led people to assume she was mentally challenged. Once she gained a dependable mode of communication, not only did she learn, she graduated from college as valedictorian. Today, she is an advocate for inclusion who writes and presents about valuing all people and protecting those most vulnerable from abuse. Her message centers on “changing this worrisome world” through compassionate understanding and support for all. Peyton lives with support in her own apartment, adjacent to her parents’ home in San Diego.
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