Sunday, September 03, 2006

Eye Contact

Cammie McGovern's Eye Contact is one of the latest releases in the growing "autism lit" genre. It's a good mystery story with realistic characters, interesting plot twists, and an unpredictable resolution.

I hated it.

I found it hard to focus on the actual plot of the novel because I was too distracted by the sickness growing in my stomach and by the panic rising in my chest. From my vantage point, this was not a mystery story; it was a warning:

Be aware that people will taunt, torment, harass and harm your child. They may even kill him.

Do not send your child to school. School is dangerous. Teachers and aides cannot possibly watch your child at all times and if they look away for only a moment, unspeakable things can happen.

If you take the risk and send your child to elementary school and he has the good fortune to survive the experience, do not under any circumstances send him to middle school.

If you are foolhardy enough to send him to middle school, do not let him ride the bus.

Do not let him go to the restroom unattended.

Do not let him walk through school hallways by himself.

Do not make him go to study halls.

Do not make him open his locker.

Your child is not safe.

This book is too well-written, so it pierces me in all the places I feel most vulnerable. This week, for more than one reason, those places were even more vulnerable than usual, and Eye Contact hit me with a full-force blow that knocked me to the ground.

That probably means it's a very good book. But I wouldn't recommend it.


The Jedi Family of Blogs said...

Thanks so much, MOM-NOS! I am very sensitive to books & movies that are too realistic, & I tend to worry (I have more than a touch of OCD myself...). This reminded me of the few, thankfully, incidents at B's school where he's disappeared or has had to navigate teasing on the playground. His school is small, community-oriented, & works hard to keep the kids safe, but kids can & do fall through the cracks & it's scary. For the most part, though, I drive away from school in the morning feeling grateful that B's in such a safe & caring place. We are fortunate...

kristina said...

I'm of the opposite opinion on this one, as you know-----really appreciate your review.

Anonymous said...

Well, now I'm not sure if I should read it or not. My son is only 4 and I'm already having anxiety about kindergarten which is a year away! Is it worth the read? It was next on my list!

MOM-NOS said...

Kristen, it's a very good book and my reaction might not be typical - it's certainly not how Kristina reacted to the book (she has several posts on AutismVox that might give you a fuller perspective.) I'd say you should consider two factors 1) Are you feeling particularly fragile/ vulnerable/ overwhelmed right now? If so, this might not be the best choice. And 2) Are you generally able to take fiction as fiction, and not feel a fictional character's pain right down to your toes? (I do not have this ability. Sad movies, for example, can leave me exhausted for days.) If you do read it, I'd love to hear your reaction!

Darryl said...

This book didn't affect me the way it affected you. Maybe it's because the warnings you sensed are already all too real to me. My son has wandered off right from under our noses several times. Once he was found trying to climb onto a train at the zoo, once he was grabbed just before running right into a six lane street. I'm just waiting for the day my son decides to clean his own poopy diaper (he's been doing this lately), strips completely naked (he usually does this as part of his diaper cleanup routine), then unlocks the front door and wanders to the school down the street (so far he's never gone more than a couple of houses away). It doesn't take a book to get images like this in my head, including the night I'll spend in jail as a result. As horrible as that sounds, it's tempered by the hilarious image of the shocked look on some poor first grade teacher's face when she first sees my son's naked poopy butt. Sometimes that's what you've got to do, temper the thoughts of awful possibilities with something that makes them less horrifying.

Eye Contact also tempers its strongly negative images, not with humor, but with stories of support in a messed up world. There's the support between the mom and her autistic boy. There's the support between the troubled sixth grade boys. There's the support between the teacher and her cop boyfriend. None of these were the kind of relationship that first comes to mind when you hear the word "support," but it was these details that kept the book from seeming too gloomy to me.

See my review at