Vancouver-based Australian author Darren Groth’s Are You Seeing Me? tells of 19-year-old twins Perry and Justine, who travel from Australia to North America on a sightseeing trip, not sure what they will find. Perry is high-functioning autistic, and while his disability is invisible, he requires near-constant supervision. Since the death of their father, Justine has been Perry’s sole caretaker and protector. The trip is a sort of last hurrah for the siblings; claiming a desire for independence (and, one suspects, to unburden his sister), Perry plans to move to a care facility for autistic adults upon their return to Australia.
Alternating between chapters written from Justine and Perry’s perspectives, interspersed with entries from a journal left to Justine by their father, the book reveals details about the twins’ childhood, their immense love and respect for one another, and also what has drawn them – for different reasons – to North America. The story builds to a climax that leads both twins to reassess what they want for themselves, each other, and the future.
Are You Seeing Me? touches on universal themes of love and loss; it is also very timely. Though awareness about autism is increasing, those without first-hand experience with the disorder often still don’t have a good grasp of its realities. Groth shows us, through the twins’ often humorous adventures and misadventures, the challenges faced by autistic adults and their loved ones, as well as their extraordinary resilience and coping skills. He allows the reader to experience the world through the eyes of someone with the condition in a sensitive but not overly simplified manner.
Educational value aside, Are You Seeing Me? is a fun, interesting read. The author’s narrative style, happily devoid of medical jargon, makes the book an ideal choice for parents or educators seeking to raise awareness about and empathy for those with autism. It will also appeal to readers who enjoy stories about relationships, road trips, and what makes a family work.