Review: Please Don't Hug Me by Kay Kerr

Refreshing and insightful, Please Don't Hug Me is an authentic, own voices novel about a young woman with Autism who is just trying to make it through her final year of high school.

Nothing in Erin's life is going quite right. She's looking forward to going to Schoolies, but that may not happen now, thanks to the fact that she lost her job at Surf Zone thanks to a pretty unlikely turn of events that involve a stray poo in the change rooms. Her boyfriend is, well a bit of a jerk really. And although her best friend Dee is clearly a very caring and compassionate person, things aren't going to well for Dee at home and she wants to escape it by partying hard with the popular crowd--people who Erin can barely stand. And then there is some kind of incident with a boat that means that Erin's big brother Rudy no longer lives at home. Erin begins writing letters to Rudy, telling him everything about her day to day life, and the unfortunate incidents that occur along the way, until she eventually learns to be true to herself--instead of the masked version that she thinks everyone wants to see. 

Parts of this novel made me laugh, but parts of it made me cry as well. Erin does not have an easy time of it, and she certainly has difficulty talking about the things that have hurt her the most. And all of this is juxtaposed against her experiences at high school, where she finds herself tolerated by Dee's vapid friends and where it becomes increasingly clear that they are not the best people for her to be around. (I couldn't help but wonder if during the Byron Bay trip Jessica's mother deliberately left her to wait outside. Erin's reaction was, of course quite vindictive, though she cops a harsh punishment, while the others express no sympathy for her earlier predicament at all.) On a brighter note, I loved her new friend, uni student and musician Aggie who gently guides Erin toward being true to herself. And I think her jerk of a boyfriend Mitch got everything he deserved.

Ultimately, this is an entertaining new YA novel set in Queensland that is sure to delight readers young and old.

Recommended. 

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2020. 

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