Publication Date: 12th September, 2017
Growing up in the shadow of a famous mother, Clara has never felt good about her body. Now, at sixteen, she has an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. After a social media disaster, she decides to escape for the summer to Paris to stay with her estranged dad and her six-year-old brother, Alastair, who is on the autism spectrum. Charged with his care, Clara and Alastair set out to explore the city. Paris teaches Clara about first love and gives her a new love of food. And Alastair teaches Clara about patience, trust and the beauty of loving without judgment.
I was provided an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I requested this because a) What a cute cover b) PARIS and c) autism rep yay! And I must say, I was not disappointed!
On The Spectrum is a story about a girl named Clara who lives with her ballerina mother in New York. She has orthorexia, because of how strict her mother was about eating healthy and maintaining a good figure. On the suggestion of a counselor and to get away from a social media mess, she decides to spend the summer in Paris with her father, her stepmother and their son, Alastair, who is on the autism spectrum.
To start off, I want to talk about the fact that Clara has orthorexia, an obsession with eating foods that one considers healthy. I honestly didn’t know what that was until I read this book so I’m happy that I know more about it now. It was so painful to see both her mother and her struggle with something as simple as eating. This was an excellent portrayal of how girls and just young people in general feel the need to look perfect and the extents to which they go to attain said perfection. I love how Clara finally accepts that what she does isn’t healthy and starts trying to get over it. Her growth throughout the story was phenomenal. A+ character development!
Alastair was an adorable little muffin and I just wanted to give him a hug. I thought that the autism representation was great. Alastair is shown as someone who is curious and intelligent but also unable to understand certain parts of speech like metaphors and idioms – he reminded me a bit of Ty from Lady Midnight. I loved seeing his relationship with Clara change throughout the book. By the end they both become so close and I found their sibling relationship to be very sweet.
I loved seeing Clara’s relationship with her stepmother and her father, who she didn’t see that often grow. Clara was in Paris to help herself but she helped her stepmother and father as well. She helped them understand how Alastair was being treated in school and tried to help him to fit in with the other children in his class and not be singled out and bullied.
Family is an important theme in the story and I really liked the way Jennifer Gold managed to portray the differences between Clara’s families – her mother and her boyfriend in New York and her father, his wife and Alastair in Paris. Gold shows both of them having good and bad aspects and drives home the idea that no family is perfect but as long as everyone is supportive of each other, nothing else really matters.
The romance in this book was kind of unnecessary and irrelevant. I liked the love interest, Michel (he is a baker woo!), but I didn’t like that the only reason he was mentioned at all was because he wanted to “fix” Clara and give her the help she needs. He was very sweet, but his presence/absence in the book wouldn’t have made much of a difference because he didn’t have a distinct personality and for me, he fell a bit flat.
Overall, this story was adorable and wonderful but it was very predictable and the ending is rather abrupt. I would still recommend it because there are some very sweet moments in the story and it’s definitely worth a read, but I just wasn’t blown away by it.