How will I be able to say much I love this book?
How to Say I Love You Out Loud by Karole Cozzo follows Jordyn, a high school student to recently moved to a new town so her brother with autism could attend a specialized school. However, her brother’s school shuts down and her parents struggle to find a new school to support him. As they search for her brother’s new school, her brother must attend her high school. This worries Jordyn, who faced a lot of judgment at her old school that she attended with her brother.
As a special education teacher, I am always interested in books that include characters with disabilities. I am especially drawn to books that primarily take place in the school setting. Characters with disabilities are very underrepresented on the market. Often times, the characters are not represented authentically and the special education process is portrayed inaccurately. However, I was really impressed by both the representation of a character with autism and how the special education process was portrayed.
This book was very successful for me because the author used her knowledge of students with disabilities and the special education process to make an authentic novel. The author, Karole Cozzo, is a school psychologist. As a result, she has a background working with students with disabilities, understands how students with disabilities function in a school setting, and routinely works with families who have a student with a disability. This is extremely apparent in her writing. Many of the scenes that involved Jordyn’s brother echoed similar situations that I have witnessed as a special education teacher. Additionally, her execution of the special education was the most flawless I have seen thus far in a young adult novel. While I have found that some books with a disability magically wrap up a success story for a character with a disability by the end of the novel (like for me, the book Fish in a Tree), Cozzo emphasizes the long years of work to celebrate what others may consider only small successes, such as a nonverbal child with autism speaking their first word.
I also appreciated the journey of the main character, Jordyn, throughout the novel. Some readers may be irritated with Jordyn’s attitude towards her brother because she does not associate with her brother because she feels like other people will not understand her situation and judge her. However, I appreciated this aspect of the novel because everyone in her family was affected by her brother differently and it gives a more well-rounded view to see multiple perspectives. I also believe Jordyn, while some of her actions appear unlikable in the beginning, does show a lot of growth to understand her brother better and become a better person.
While some readers may find some aspects of the plot underdeveloped, like Jordyn’s relationship, this did not really bother me because it wasn’t the reason why I wanted to read this book. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading this book after discovering it as a Kindle deal and it actually made my overall favorite books of 2018 list. I am not much of a crier while reading, but I definitely had some emotional moments while reading this story. I give this book five out of five stars.
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