An Unusual Boy by Fiona Higgins

‘We’re not a normal family, are we?’

Meet Julia Curtis.  Her husband Andy is often overseas for work, so most of the parenting of their three children falls on Julia’s shoulders.  Five months ago, they moved from Erskineville to Queenscliff, to a house that needs doing up.  Milla is fourteen, Jackson is eleven and Ruby is nine.

Jackson sees the world quite differently from his sisters and although he’s been described as ‘neurodiverse’ he does not have a definitive diagnosis.  

The story shifts between Julia and Jackson.  From Julia’s perspective, we see the challenges of parenting, of trying to balance the quite different needs of her children while trying to keep the family intact.  From Jackson’s viewpoint, we have a unique perspective of the world.  Julia is happy when Jackson makes friends with Digby from his soccer team, but Digby has his own challenges.  And an incident in the school toilets changes everything. Different accounts of an incident lead to Jackson being removed from school and while finding the truth is important, it will be challenging.

There are several different strands to this story and I really enjoyed the way in which Ms Higgins draws them together.  While Jackson and Julia are at the centre of the story, Milla and Ruby are well defined as is Nanna Pam (Julia’s mother-in-law).

I liked this novel for a number of reasons but particularly because of the way in which Jackson and his world are depicted.

‘Normal doesn’t exist, darling.  It’s just a cycle on the washing machine.’

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Boldwood Books for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes. 

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

#AWW2020

#AussieAuthor2020

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