10 best books featuring neurodivergent characters

Books
Neurodiversity

10 best books featuring neurodivergent characters

In recent years more and more people have realised the importance of featuring a diverse range of characters in literature, including those who are neurodivergent. Neurodivergent individuals often have fresh perspectives and capabilities that should be celebrated – and they can often bring us fresh insight that can be of great benefit.

In this curated list of the 10 best books that feature a cast of neurodivergent people you’ll find a wide range of one-off characters that bring deeper understanding in their own individual ways. These all characters help shed to new light onto this unique way of being in the world and promote greater empathy, understanding, and acceptance.

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” by Mark Haddon

This popular novel follows the story of Christopher Boone, a fifteen-year-old boy with autism, as he embarks on a journey to investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of his neighbour’s dog.

Christopher’s perspective provides us with a profoundly insightful narrative that challenges the many stereotypes surrounding neurodivergent people and offers us a glimpse into how the mind of someone on the autism spectrum works. 

“NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity” by Steve Silberman

This illuminating work takes time to shine a spotlight on the history and culture of autism using thorough research and a compassionate storytelling style.

Silberman sheds a forensic light on the experiences of autistic individuals, as well as the social prejudices and obstacles that many still face. This unique and eye-opening book is extremely valuable as it not only gives an authentic account of autism, it frames being on the spectrum as an entirely natural part of human diversity.

“Marcelo in the Real World” by Francisco X. Stork

Stork’s work is a coming-of-age story that showcases the story of Marcelo, a seventeen-year-old boy who has Asperger’s syndrome. When he takes on a new summer job that stretches him beyond his comfort zone, Marcelo’s perceptions are drastically challenged, causing him to re-navigate the complexities of the world.

Stork’s work is a stunningly memorable novel that provides readers with a deeply genuinely moving portrayal of an autistic person and their path towards deeper self-discovery.

“The Rosie Project” by Graeme Simsion

Graeme Simision’s heartwarming romcom makes a star out of lead character and professor of genetics Don Tillman, an endearing lead, who has undiagnosed autism.

Don embarks on a personal journey to find his ideal partner but discovers that his unique quirks lead him into a series of humorous encounters.  “The Rosie Project” is an entertaining novel that manages to combine wit, comedy and empathy to paint an upbeat, yet in-depth portrayal of what is sure to become one of literature’s most loveable neurodivergent characters.

“The Speed of Dark” by Elizabeth Moon

An unusual and provocative science fiction novel, The Speed of Dark takes a dive into the world of Lou Arrendale, who is posed with a life-changing choice – embrace his autism, or undergo an experimental treatment to “cure” it.

Through its exploration of Lou’s journey, the novel delves into the concept of normalcy, as well the complexities of personal choice, offering up a powerful social commentary on the experience of being neurodivergent.

“House Rules” by Jodi Picoult.

House Rules is an addicting and page turning blend of mystery, social observation and compelling family drama, focusing on the story of Jacob Hunt, who has Asperger’s syndrome and becomes the central suspect in a murder investigation.

This insightful story raises multiple questions about empathy, justice and the struggles those with autism face, while deftly demonstrating how the legal system struggles to understand the nuances of autism.

“The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism” by Naoki Higashida

This charming memoir offers valuable insight into the inner world of someone on the spectrum and the powerfully authentic narrative is written by a young boy who has nonverbal autism.  Throughout his novel, Higashida makes many insightful and candid observations, using artfully crafted prose to weave extremely vivid descriptions.

The colourful passages with their close attention to detail, paint an immediate, genuine picture, letting readers deeply immerse themselves in the thoughts, emotions, and sensory experiences of autistic individuals.

“The Knife of Never Letting Go” by Patrick Ness

A gripping dystopian adventure, Ness’s skilful narrative introduces Todd Hewitt, a boy existing in a world where people can hear each other’s thoughts. Todd’s tale includes vivid experiences of what sensory overload feels like and details his struggle to orientate his way through an overwhelming world.

The Knife of Never Letting Go successfully manages to intertwine both the main character’s personal journey of growth along with his unique struggles with sensory perception. The book is a cleverly written, highly emotionally charged narrative that offers reader’s a fresh perspective on what it’s like to be neurodivergent.

“Queenie” by Jacqueline Wilson

This moving, authentic feeling young adult novel from acclaimed author Jacqueline Wilson, features Elsie, a young girl who struggles with both dyslexia and learning difficulties. Told from Elsie’s point of view, this novel examines the close bonds of friendship and the impact of bullying, neatly outlining the obstacles faced by individuals who learn differently.

Though the book does cover some challenging subjects, “Queenie” is ultimately an empowering narrative that effectively highlights the importance of both personal resilience – and radical self-acceptance.

“The Astonishing Colour of After” by Emily X.R. Pan

Pan’s novel draws on the magical realism style to illustrate the story of Leigh, a teenager with synaesthesia, a condition where you hear music but see shapes. Leigh is wrestling with grief after her mother’s sudden suicide and Pan’s novel follows her decision to travel to Taiwan, to reconnect with her mother’s past.

The book cleverly layers multiple themes of grief, identity and mental health, to offer readers an incise and highly colourful examination of how neurodiversity sometimes can intertwine with cultural heritage.

Though by no means an exhaustive list, these 10 books bring neurodivergent characters into the spotlight, with their authentic and diverse portrayals. The skilled narratives broaden and contribute to a greater acceptance of neurodiversity, allowing readers to share in the character’s experiences and appreciate the unique strengths of individuals with neurodivergent conditions.

By outlining the challenges associated with these ways of being in the world, the selected works help to dismantle stereotypes and encourage empathy. These books are important as they highlight the value in celebrating the diversity of the human mind, helping to foster more inclusivity and pave the way for greater literary scope.