Diversity, inclusion, and global awareness are the driving values behind new children’s publisher Clockwise Press. Fragile Bones is the first in its inaugural series, One-2-One. Each book will feature two teens who meet through their high school’s Best Buddies program and tell their stories in alternating chapters.
The protagonists in this instalment are Anna, a brainy, ambitious senior who thinks being a Best Buddy will be good for her résumé, and Harrison, a 15-year-old with high-functioning autism. Because of his condition, Harrison compulsively names all the bones in the human body when he becomes anxious, obsesses about foot damage caused by high heels, and is most comfortable staying within his own routine. Gently and creatively, Anna helps Harrison expand his comfort zone, and through their friendship (and a developing romance with another boy), she in turn learns that “the real world is a lot harder than the book world.”
Author Lorna Schultz Nicholson’s representation of Harrison’s voice and self-awareness is admirable. His slightly formal, flat-footed prose perfectly suits his cautious, tenuous grip on his own feelings and behaviour. Sometimes funny, always earnest and careful, his brave efforts to move forward are persuasive and endearing. Harrison’s parents also stand out for their wisdom, kindness, and practical strategies for helping him.
Though Anna proves to be a genius at perceptive accommodation when it comes to Harrison, her narrative voice is curiously clinical and stiff (it’s a rare teen who would describe the sensation of a sexy kiss as “igniting a deep-rooted energy inside me”). Apart from Harrison, the other characters in Anna’s life tend toward the generic – especially her workaholic mother, a judge, whose deepest insight is “we’re never too old to learn something new.” It’s as if Anna isn’t given a chance to fully emerge except in relation to Harrison.
Perhaps that’s for the best, as it places this worthwhile story’s literary and emotional energy on Harrison, and that’s where readers have most to learn.