Please Don’t Hug Me (Kay Kerr, Text)
At the suggestion of her psychologist, Erin writes letters to her absent older brother, Rudy. Erin is 17 years old, behind on her savings for Schoolies and freshly unemployed. There was an incident. Another one. The kind of incident Erin describes as an ‘outburst’ and others call a ‘meltdown’. Erin has autism. Yet Erin’s autism isn’t simply a set of challenges but also a set of characteristics. It makes her think differently; it makes her who she is. As Erin writes, ‘Without ASD there is no me, because it’s as much a part of who I am as my skin or my blood.’ Kay Kerr is a skilful writer who deftly balances the serious and the light in this coming-of-age narrative. In many ways, everything is serious to Erin. The question of how best respond to a joke is just as important as dealing with death and grieving. And yet the book is intensely amusing as Erin works her way to authenticity and acceptance. Please Don’t Hug Me investigates the ways in which having a ‘limited edition brain’ like Erin’s makes life feel like an endless anthropological study, and how that is both a hard and beautiful thing. This is another exciting release in Australian young adult fiction that I can’t wait to recommend to a host of sharp and curious minds.
Charlotte Guest is a bookseller and PhD candidate in Geelong, Victoria