Children's and Teen Literature Featuring Autistic Characters
Are you looking for children’s or young adult literature featuring autistic characters? Fortunately, there’s a growing body of work to choose from. For autistic children and teens, these books offer an opportunity to see someone like themselves represented in the pages of mainstream literature, letting them identify with the characters and grow alongside them.
These stories also help neurotypical children relate to autistic peers, stirring appreciation for their differences and similarities. Within the cozy confines of a book, children might first meet someone who is nonspeaking, someone who stims by flapping their hands, or someone who has sensitivity to loud noises. Or, perhaps they may see a flicker of a friend or classmate in the book and gain a new understanding.
The following books have been recommended by members of the autism community as good reads any time of the year — not just during Autism Acceptance Month. They all feature characters that are either explicitly referred to as autistic, or could be interpreted as autistic. Many of these selections were authored by autistic individuals, and we've signaled which authors publicly identify as autistic. These authentic neurodiverse voices offer keen insights developed through lived experience.
This listing is an ongoing project — one that we hope is never finished as more books with autistic characters are published. If you have any recommendations to add to our list, please email us at email@example.com.
written by an autistic author
written by a local author
Thank you to Montgomery County Public Libraries, xMinds President Nora Dudwick, and authors Tiffany Hammond, Ivelisse Housman, Mike Jung, Sarah Kapit, Annie Kotowicz, Lyn Miller-Lachmann, Sally J. Pla, and Meera Trehan for their help in compiling this list.
All My Stripes: A Story For Children With Autism by Shaina Rudolph and Danielle Royer
Zane the zebra often feels different. He worries that his classmates don't notice his "curiosity," "honesty," or "caring stripes," just his "autism stripe." With the help of his Mama, Zane comes to appreciate all his stripes, including his "autism stripe," as the unique strengths that make him who he is. Includes a Reading Guide with additional background information about autism spectrum disorders and a Note to Parents and Caregivers with tips for finding support. Watch the authors read the book aloud and answer questions from children.
Armond Goes to a Party: A Book About Asperger's and Friendship by Nancy Carlson & Armond Isaak
Armond doesn’t want to go to Felicia’s birthday party. Parties are noisy, disorganized, and smelly — all things that are hard for an autistic kid. But with the support of Felicia and her mom, Armond not only gets through the party, but also has fun. When his mom picks him up, Armond admits the party was not easy, but he feels good that he faced the challenge — and that he’s a good friend. This book is co-written by Nancy Carlson, a prolific children’s author, and Armond Isaak, who was diagnosed with Asperger's, and wrote this book when he was in elementary school, based on his lived experience. Armond now lives locally and works as a postbaccalaureate fellow for the National Institutes of Health.
Benny J. and the Horrible Halloween by Sivan Hong
All kids love Halloween, right? Not Benny J. He’s worried about the Halloween parade, and doesn’t want to go. Will people stare at him? What if they laugh at his costume? Will the parade be too loud? Will it ruin the normal school day schedule? This is a wonderful book to read to kids who find themselves overwhelmed, worried, and self-conscious on big days like Halloween. The story of Benny J. can be used as a teaching tool all year round to teach empathy and kindness to neurodiverse and neurotypical kids alike.
Benji, The Bad Day, and Me by Sally J. Pla
Nothing seems to be going right for Sammy today. After he walks home in the pouring rain, he finds his autistic little brother, Benji, is having a bad day too. On days like this, Benji has a special play-box where he goes to feel cozy and safe. Sammy doesn’t have a special place, and he’s convinced no one cares how he feels or even notices him. But somebody is noticing, and may just have an idea on how to help Sammy feel better.
Bitsy Bat, School Star by Kaz Windness
Bitsy is a little bat with big dreams of making friends at her new school. But when she arrives, Bitsy doesn’t feel like she fits in. The other kids sit on their chairs, but sitting upright makes Bitsy dizzy. Everyone tells Bitsy she’s doing things wrong, so she tries harder. . . and ends up having a five-star meltdown. Bitsy musters her courage, comes up with a new plan, and discovers that being a good friend is just one of the ways she shines bright!
Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten by Laura Purdie Salas
Clover Kitty does NOT want to go to kittygarten! Although she might like a friend to play with, kittygarten feels overwhelming for a sensory-sensitive kitty like Clover. And when she arrives, it is exactly as she fears: Her classroom is too loud, the lights are too bright, and everyone comes too close. So Clover throws a fit . . . and decides to quit kittygarten. But when a classmate comes to check on her, she begins to reconsider. Maybe it’s time for Clover to give kittygarten another chance.
A Day With No Words by Tiffany Hammond
This #1 "New York Times" bestselling picture book invites readers into the life of an autism family who communicate without spoken language. Told from the perspective of a nonspeaking autistic boy, this colorful book shares what life can look like for families who utilize tools to embrace different methods of "speaking." The story highlights the bond between mother and child and follows them on a day where they use a tablet to communicate with others. Author Tiffany Hammond, who is autistic and the mother of two autistic sons, is the creator behind the popular Fidgets and Fries social media channel.
A Friend for Henry by Jenn Bailey
Henry is looking for a friend in Classroom Six. A friend who shares. A friend who listens. Maybe even a friend who likes things to stay the same and all in order, as Henry does. But on a day full of too close and too loud, when nothing seems to go right, will Henry ever find a friend? This heartfelt story from the perspective of a boy on the autism spectrum celebrates the everyday magic of friendship. Follow the rest of Henry’s journey in “Henry, Like Always” and “Henry and the Something New.”
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures by Julia Finley Mosca
This colorful biography introduces children to Dr. Temple Grandin — one of the world’s quirkiest science heroes. When young Temple was diagnosed with autism, no one expected her to talk, let alone become one of the most powerful voices in modern science. Yet, the determined visual thinker did just that. Her unique mind allowed her to connect with animals in a special way, helping her invent groundbreaking improvements for farms around the globe.
I Am Odd, I Am New by Benjamin Giroux
Step into the world of Benjamin Giroux, a 10-year-old boy with autism, as he invites readers to see life from his perspective. This picture book is based on a poem that Benjamin composed during a school assignment. When Benjamin's parents shared his poem with friends and family, they could not have anticipated that the poem would go viral, and eventually be transformed into a picture book.
It Was Supposed to Be Sunny by Samantha Cotterill
Laila feels like her sparkly sunshine birthday celebration is on the brink of ruin when it starts to storm. Then, just as she starts feeling OK with moving her party indoors, an accident with her cake makes her want to call the whole thing off. Changes in routine can be hard for any kid, but especially for kids on the autism spectrum. But with the help of her mom and a little alone time with her service dog, Laila knows she can handle this. Part of Samantha Cotterill’s “Little Senses” series of books, which are written for any kid who sometimes feels anxious or overwhelmed, but especially for kids who are on the autism spectrum and/or have sensory issues. Other titles in the series include, “Can I Play Too?”; “Nope. Never. Not for Me!”; and “This Beach Is Loud!”
My Autistic Mama by Kati Hirschy
Written by an autistic mother, this colorful picture book offers a joyful look at autism through the perspective of children with autistic mamas. A love letter to autistic parents, "My Autistic Mama" doesn't follow just one child, but showcases multiple family dynamics, giving representation to all kinds of different bodies, cultures, and sexualities. The children in this book speak about their autistic mamas with love in their hearts and explain how their mamas' autistic traits affect their lives in a positive way!
My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete
Callie is very proud of her brother Charlie. He's good at so many things — swimming, playing the piano, running fast. And Charlie has a special way with animals, especially their dog, Harriett. But sometimes Charlie gets very quiet. His words get locked inside him, and he seems far away. Then, when Callie and Charlie start to play, Charlie is back to laughing, holding hands, having fun. Charlie is like any other boy - except he has autism. Written by actress Holly Robinson Peete and daughter Ryan Elizabeth Peete, based on their experiences with their autistic son/brother, respectively. Watch Holly Robinson Peete read the book aloud. Charlie and Callie's adventures continue in Charlie Makes a Splash!, which is co-authored by Holly Robinson Peete and her autistic son, RJ Peete.
My Brother Otto by Meg Raby
This endearing picture book highlights the love, acceptance, and understanding a sister, Piper, has for her nonspeaking autistic little brother, Otto. This book provides explanations for Otto’s differences and quirkiness in easy-to-understand language, and highlights Otto’s desires for adventure and love — just like his peers. Otto and Piper’s story continues in “My Brother Otto and the Birthday Party.”
Noah Chases the Wind by Michelle Worthington
Noah is different. He sees, hears, feels, and thinks in ways that other people don't always understand. He is sensitive and perceptive, he asks questions most people would never consider, and he doesn't stop asking until he knows the “why” of nearly everything. But there's one question Noah has not been able to answer: “Where does the wind go?” Children who see the world in their own ways may recognize themselves in Noah and learn to feel good about their differences.
Silent Days, Silent Dreams by Allen Say
This illustrated biography tells the story of James Castle, a deaf, nonspeaking, autistic artist. James overcame whatever obstacles he encountered. He had difficulty making friends, so he made them out of cardboard. He slept in a bare attic, but he filled it with visions of the cozy bed and room he longed for. When his art materials were taken away, he made art from soot and paper from the trash. He could not hear, and he never learned to speak. Yet, he created art that speaks to us still.
Talking Is Not My Thing by Rose Robbins
This little sister might not use words, but she’s got plenty to say! Narrated through thought bubbles, this energetic book invites readers into the day of a nonverbal girl with autism. She has so much to do — games to play, spaghetti to eat, and a missing stuffed animal to find! Sometimes life can be noisy and overwhelming, but something new is always around the corner. Talking isn’t the only way to make a joke, ask for Grandma’s help, or surprise your brother.
Too Sticky!: Sensory Issues with Autism by Jen Malia
Holly loves doing experiments and learning new things in science class. But when she finds out the next experiment is making slime, she’s worried. Slime is made with glue, and glue is sticky. Because she is autistic, Holly has sensory differences and doesn’t like anything sticky. With help from family and her teacher, Holly receives the accommodations and encouragement she needs to give slime a try.
Ways to Play by Lyn Miller-Lachmann
Riley, a little girl on the autism spectrum, has plenty of ways to play, like lining up dolls and stuffies by size and shape; tearing up newspapers and making piles into mountains; and using sharp crayons to draw big swirly patterns. But bossy cousin Emma thinks those ways are wrong, wrong, and wrong. Fortunately, Charlie the dog is on hand to help with a breakthrough demonstration that there are MANY ways to play, and all of them are right.
Why Johnny Doesn't Flap: NT is OK! by Clay Morton and Gail Morton
Johnny is different. He is never exactly on time, he can't seem to stick to a routine, and he often speaks in cryptic idioms. Johnny is neurotypical, but that's OK. This fun picture book turns the tables on common depictions of neurological difference by drolly revealing how people who are not on the autism spectrum are perceived by those who are. The autistic narrator's bafflement at his neurotypical friend's quirks shows that “normal” is simply a matter of perspective.
Wiggles, Stomps & Squeezes by Lindsay Rowe Parker
This brightly illustrated story follows a young girl with heightened sensory experiences through her day. The vibration in her feet when she runs, the tap-tap-tap of her fork on the table at mealtime, the trickle of cool water running over her hands – these are the things that calm her jitters down. This book is for anyone who has ever felt the need for a wiggle, stomp, or squeeze!
Early Readers (Ages 5–9)
Ada and Zaz by Sally J. Pla
When Ada Higgins learns that a new boy is moving in across the hall, she pre-decides that he will become her new best friend, and plans a loud festive welcome. But Zaz Jones hates ‘loud’ and does not do well with ‘festive.’ He is worried about the change. This bumpy beginning resolves after Zaz’s pet parrot escapes in the building, and it’s Ada and her dog Marvel to the rescue in an unexpected way.
A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold
For Bixby Alexander Tam (nicknamed Bat), life tends to be full of surprises — some of them good, some not so good. Today, though, is a good-surprise day. Bat’s mom, a veterinarian, has brought home a baby skunk, which she needs to take care of until she can hand him over to a wild-animal shelter. But the minute Bat meets the kit, he knows they belong together. And he’s got one month to show his mom that a baby skunk might just make a pretty terrific pet. Bat’s adventures continue in “Bat and the Waiting Game” and “Bat and the End of Everything.”
Nick and the Brick Builder Challenge by Jen Malia
This is the first book in the “Infinity Rainbow Club” series, which features five neurodivergent children in a club at their elementary school. When the Infinity Rainbow Club competes in a brick builder challenge, Nick can't wait to participate. Until he learns he must have a partner — the new girl. Nick wants to work alone. But to win, he'll have to figure out how to work together. A story about the universal struggle of learning to work on a team, told from an autistic child’s perspective.
Kingdom of Pages: The Lost Prince by Michelle Mohrweis
Cleo MacGuffin, self-proclaimed “adventuring enthusiast,” their cousin Samara, and their friend Prince Mateo find themselves caught up in thrilling quests in the fantasy world of the Kingdom of Pages. When Cleo and Samara accidentally sell a book that wasn't for sale, they must get it back. But what do they do when they track down the mysterious boy who bought it, only to find out he's in danger and needs help? The group's adventures continue in the sequels “The Hidden Gemstone” and “The Wandering Watchers.”
She Persisted: Temple Grandin by Lyn Miller-Lachman
This biography explores the amazing life of Temple Grandin — and how she persisted. Temple Grandin is a world-renowned scientist, animal-behavior expert, and autism spokesperson who was able to use her way of thinking and looking at the world to invent and achieve great things! Complete with an introduction from Chelsea Clinton, black-and-white illustrations throughout, and a list of ways that readers can follow in Temple Grandin’s footsteps and make a difference!
Middle Grade (8–12)
Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Jason Blake is an autistic 12-year-old navigating life in a neurotypical world. He finds a glimmer of understanding when he comes across PhoenixBird, a girl named Rebecca, who posts stories to the same online site as he does. Jason thinks that she could be his first real friend. But as desperate as Jason is to meet her, he's terrified that if they do meet, Rebecca will only see his autism and not who Jason really is.
Can You See Me? by Libby Scott & Rebecca Westcot
Tally is 11 years old and she's just like her friends. Well, sometimes she is. If she tries really hard to be. Because there's something that makes Tally not the same as her friends. Tally's autism means there are things that bother her even though she wishes they didn't. It means that some people misunderstand her and feel frustrated by her. As Tally conceals her true self in order to fit in at Kingswood Academy, she starts to question whether fitting in is truly what matters most. This novel is inspired by the experiences of autistic co-author Libby Scott, who co-wrote the book when she was only 11!
Do You Know Me? by Libby Scott & Rebecca Westcott
Ever since her classmates found out she is autistic, Tally has felt more comfortable being herself. But the end-of-year class trip will be an entire week — her longest overnight trip ever. Instead of being assigned to bunk with her friend Aleksandra, she is rooming with her former friends, who both reject Tally on day one. Tally isn't sure she'll ever make new friends. And how will she survive for so long away from home? (Sequel to "Can You See Me," listed above.)
Ellen Outside the Lines by A.J. Sass
Thirteen-year-old Ellen Katz feels most comfortable when her life is well planned out and people fit neatly into her predefined categories. Her best friend, Laurel, has always made Ellen feel like being autistic is no big deal. When Laurel starts to pull away in their friendship, a school trip to Barcelona seems like the perfect place to get their friendship back on track. However, this trip is nothing like what Ellen planned.
The Fire, The Water, and Maudie McGinn by Sally J. Pla
Maudie is a sweet, sensitive autistic girl who has social and sensory issues. She always looks forward to the summers she spends in California with her dad. But this year, she must keep a troubling secret about her home life — one that her mom warned her never to tell. She has a new stepdad, one who gets so confused and frustrated by her behavior that his anger gets out of control. Maudie wants to confide in her dad about her stepdad's anger, but she’s scared. Maudie's self-esteem and confidence plunges. This is the story of Maudie’s profound journey back to safety and self-worth.
Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen by Sarah Kapit
Vivy Cohen is determined. She’s had enough of playing catch in the park. She’s ready to pitch for a real baseball team. But Vivy’s mom is worried about Vivy being the only girl on the team, and the only autistic kid. She wants Vivy to forget about pitching, but Vivy won’t give up. When her social skills teacher makes her write a letter to someone, Vivy knows exactly who to choose: her hero, Major League pitcher VJ Capello. Then two amazing things happen: A coach sees Vivy’s amazing knuckleball and invites her to join his team. And VJ starts writing back!
Good Different by Meg Eden Kuyatt
Selah, a middle schooler on the autism spectrum, knows her rules for being normal. This means keeping her feelings locked tightly inside, despite the way they build up inside her as each school day goes on. However, when Selah explodes and hits a fellow student, her comfortable, familiar world starts to crumble. As Selah starts to figure out more about who she is, she comes to understand that different doesn't mean damaged. Can she get her school to understand that, too, before it's too late?
This short story is featured in You Are Here: Connecting Flights, which showcases 12 interwoven stories set in a busy Chicago airport. An incident at a TSA security check point sows chaos and rumors, creating a chain of events that impacts twelve young Asian Americans in a crowded and restless airport. As their disrupted journeys crisscross and collide, they encounter fellow travelers — some helpful, some hostile — as they discover the challenges of friendship, the power of courage, and the importance of the right word at the right time.
Ink Girls by Marieke Nijkamp
In this graphic novel, two 11-year-old girls from different walks of life join forces to fight censorship and protect the people they love. Cinzia is a printer’s apprentice. When the printer is imprisoned for publishing accusations against the ruling family, Cinzia strives to prove that she told the truth. Meanwhile, Elena is forced to keep to her rooms and garden, because she is not the charming, powerful noble her family wants her to be. She doesn’t communicate well. She’s too gullible and literal, and struggles to understand other people.
A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll
“A Kind of Spark” tells the story of 11-year-old Addie as she campaigns for a memorial in memory of the witch trials that took place in her Scottish hometown. Addie knows there’s more to the story of these “witches,” just like there is more to hers. Can Addie challenge how the people in her town see her, and her autism, and make her voice heard?
The Many Mysteries of the Finkel Family by Sarah Kapit
This novel focuses on two autistic sisters, 12-year-old Lara and 11-year-old Caroline. Caroline uses AAC to communicate. When Lara starts her very own detective agency, FIASCCO (Finkel Investigation Agency Solving Consequential Crimes Only), she does not want Caroline involved. She and Caroline don’t have to do everything together. But Caroline won’t give up, and when she brings Lara the firm’s first mystery, Lara relents, and the questions start piling up. As the girls begin uncovering family secrets, they must confront their relationship to each other.
Moonwalking by Lyn Miller-Lachmann
Co-authored with the award-winning poet and novelist Zetta Elliott, this verse novel is set in Brooklyn in 1982. It portrays the unlikely friendship between Afro-Latinx science geek and aspiring graffiti artist Pierre “Pie” Velez and autistic white punk rock enthusiast Joseph John “JJ” Pankowski as their love of art helps them through difficult times in a world that seeks to silence them. But a run-in with the cops threatens to unravel it all.
The Ojja-Wojja by Magdalene Visaggio and Jenn St-Onge
In this graphic novel, Bolingbroke is a small town just like any other . . . or so eighth graders Val and Lanie think. The two are always there for each other. Which is important when you’re queer, like Lanie, or on the spectrum, like Val, and don’t seem to fit in. When a school project leads to a ghost sighting, the friends realize Bolingbroke is not so boring, especially once they accidentally summon the Ojja-Wojja, a demonic presence connected to mysterious tragedies throughout the town’s history.
Planet Earth Is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos
Twelve-year-old Nova eagerly awaits the launch of the space shuttle Challenger. Nova and her older sister, Bridget, share a love of astronomy and the space program, and planned to watch the launch together. But Bridget has disappeared, and Nova is in a new foster home. While foster families and teachers dismiss Nova as severely autistic and nonverbal, Bridget understands how intelligent and special Nova is. As the liftoff draws closer, Nova’s new foster family and teachers begin to see her potential.
Rogue by Lyn Miller-Lachman
Eighth-grader Kiara, who has Asperger’s syndrome, has a difficult time making friends. Most of the time, she relies on Mr. Internet — her go-to when the world doesn’t make sense — and her imagination, where she daydreams that she’s Rogue, one of the mutant superheroes of the X-Men. In the comics, Rogue hurts anyone she touches, but eventually learns to control her special power. When 12-year-old Chad moves in across the street, Kiara hopes that, for once, she’ll be able to make friendship stick. She’s even willing to keep Chad’s secrets and help him do something she knows is wrong, if that’s what it takes.
The Secret Life of Rose: Inside an Autistic Head by Rose Smitten & Jodie Smitten
This insider’s guide to autism is co-authored by Rose Smitten, an autistic child, and her mother, an autism specialist. Rose and her mother take turns sharing their insights. “The reason I’m writing this book is because I want people to understand autism from my perspective,” writes Rose, who was 10 years old when she authored the book. Topics include stimming, emotions, masking, sensory experiences, executive functioning, and meltdowns.
Show Us Who You Are by Elle McNicoll
It has never been easy for Cora to make friends. Cora is autistic, and sometimes she gets overwhelmed and stims to soothe her nerves. Adrien has ADHD and knows what it is like to navigate a world that isn’t always built for the neurodiverse. The two are fast friends until an accident puts Adrien in a coma. Cora is devastated until Dr. Gold, the CEO of the mysterious Pomegranate Institute, offers to let Cora talk to Adrien again, as a hologram her company develops.
The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla
Charlie is a bird-obsessed autistic boy who loves his orderly life at home. But his war-injured dad now lies in a hospital room across the country, and Charlie’s compelled by his siblings to find a way to get to him. Along the way, Charlie decides to spot all the birds that he and his dad had hoped to see together someday. Their journey takes many unexpected twists, as Charlie discovers that “sometimes the birds you look for. . . are not the birds you find.”
Thrown (in The Hero Next Door) by Mike Jung
This short story is featured in the middle-grade anthology The Hero Next Door, which showcases a collection of stories about diverse everyday heroes. In “Thrown,” Stevie is an 11-year-old martial-arts student. When Stevie gets promoted to the teen-and-adults aikido class, he gets to train under a new sensei, who is autistic, just like him.
The View from the Very Best House in Town by Meera Trehan
This debut novel by a local author focuses on two autistic best friends. When Sam is accepted into snobbish Castleton Academy as an autistic “Miracle Boy,” he leaves Asha, who is also autistic, to navigate middle school alone. This suspenseful story explores ableism and classism as it delves into the mysteries of what makes a person a friend and a house a home.
Young Adult (Ages 13–18)
At the End of Everything by Marieke Nijkamp
The Hope Juvenile Treatment Center is ironically named. No one has hope for the delinquent teenagers exiled there. Then the guards start acting strange. And one day, they don’t show up. But when the teens band together to make a break from the facility, they encounter soldiers outside the gates. There’s a rapidly spreading infectious disease outside, which means that they’re stuck at Hope. The group must figure out how to survive in a world that never wanted them in the first place.
Even If We Break by Marieke Nijkamp
For five friends, this was supposed to be one last getaway before going their separate ways — a chance to say goodbye to each other, and to the murder mystery game they’ve been playing for the past three years. This diverse group includes Maddy, who is autistic; an accident destroyed her sports career. In this thriller, the five teens are all dealing with their own demons, and they’re all hiding secrets. When the lines between game and reality start to blend with deadly consequences, it’s a race against time before it’s game over — forever.
The Luis Ortega Survival Club by Sonora Reyes
Ariana Ruiz wants to be noticed. But as an autistic girl who never talks, she goes largely ignored by her peers. So when cute, popular Luis starts to pay attention to her, Ari finally feels seen. Luis’s attention soon turns to something more, and they have sex at a party. While Ari didn’t say no, she definitely didn’t say yes. Soon, Ari finds a mysterious note that leads her to a group of students determined to expose Luis for the predator he is.
On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis
January 29, 2035. That’s the day the big comet is scheduled to hit Earth. Denise and her mother and sister have been assigned to a temporary shelter to wait out the blast. A last-minute meeting leads them to something better than a temporary shelter — a generation ship, scheduled to leave Earth behind to colonize new worlds after the comet hits. But everyone on the ship has been chosen because of their usefulness. Denise is autistic and fears that she’ll never be allowed to stay.
Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde
Queens of Geek follows three teenage friends traveling to the SupaCon convention. Charlie, a vlogger and actress, likes to stand out. Taylor, who is autistic and has anxiety, likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. Taylor has a secret crush on the third friend traveling with them, Jamie. When Taylor hears about a fan contest to meet the star of her favorite movies, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.
This Is the Way the World Ends by Jen Wilde
As an autistic scholarship student at the prestigious Webber Academy, Waverly is used to masking to fit in. When her tutoring student asks Waverly to attend the school's annual fundraising masquerade disguised as her, Waverly jumps at the chance. In this thriller/speculative fiction, the evening takes a sinister turn when Waverly stumbles into a secret meeting between the dean and the school's top donors — and witnesses a brutal murder, followed by a mysterious global blackout that puts the entire party on lockdown.
This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp
10:00 a.m.: The principal of Opportunity, Alabama’s high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve. 10:02 a.m.:The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class. 10:03 a.m.: The auditorium doors won’t open. 10:05 a.m.: Someone starts shooting. . . . In this thought-provoking thriller, which is told over the span of 54 harrowing minutes from four different perspectives, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.
Tilly in Technicolor by Mazey Eddings
This love story features two neurodivergent teens who form a connection over the course of a summer. Tilly Twomley is desperate for change. White-knuckling her way through high school with flawed executive functioning has left her burnt out and ready to start fresh. As for Oliver Clark, his autism has often made it hard for him to form relationships with others. Oliver is forced to spend the summer with Tilly, a girl who couldn’t be more his opposite — feeling things for her he can’t quite name.
Torch by Lyn Miller-Lachmann
In this historical fiction novel set in 1969 Czechoslovakia, the totalitarian government investigates three misfit boys when a friend of theirs sets himself on fire to protest foreign occupation. Among these boys is Tomás, who has already been accused of “antisocial” behavior because he struggles to follow the unwritten rules of everyday interactions. Now he must work even harder to meet the expectations of his father, the regional leader of the communist party.
Iselia “Seelie” Graygrove looks just like her twin, Isolde . . . but as an autistic changeling left in the human world by the fae as an infant, she has always known she is different. This fantasy novel follows the adventures of Seelie and her human twin as they embark upon the heist of a lifetime for a mystery legacy. As they evade capture by both human and fae forces, Seelie discovers more about her own autistic identity, her magical powers, and love along the way.
Adult (May Be Suitable for Some Teens)
In Two Worlds by Ido Kedar
Seven-year-old Anthony has autism. He flaps his hands. He makes strange noises. He can’t speak or otherwise communicate his thoughts. Treatments, therapies, and theories about his condition define his daily existence. Yet Anthony isn’t improving much. Year after year his remedial lessons drone on. Anthony gets older and taller, but his speech remains elusive and his school lessons never advance. Life seems to be passing him by. Until one day, everything changes. The author, Ido Kendar, is a nonspeaking autistic individual, who also penned the memoir Ido in Autismland: Climbing Out of Autism’s Silent Prison.
Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison
Ever since he was young, John Robison longed to connect with other people, but by the time he was a teenager, his odd habits—an inclination to blurt out non sequiturs, avoid eye contact, dismantle radios, and dig five-foot holes—had earned him the label “social deviant.” It was not until he was forty that he was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. That understanding transformed the way he saw himself—and the world. In this darkly funny memoir, he explores the many facets of his life—from developing exploding guitars for KISS to building a family of his own.
Parallel Play by Tim Page
In 1997, Tim Page won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism for his work as the chief classical music critic of "The Washington Post," work that the Pulitzer board called “lucid and illuminating.” Three years later, at the age of 45, he was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. In this hilarious and heartbreaking memoir, Page revisits his early days through the prism of newfound clarity.
The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida
Written by a 13-year-old nonspeaking, autistic boy, this memoir offers a glimpse into his thoughts and feelings. With disarming honesty and a generous heart, Naoki shares his unique point of view on not only autism but life itself. He answers even the most delicate questions that people want to know. Questions such as: “Why do you line up your toy cars and blocks?”, “Why don’t you make eye contact when you’re talking?”, and “What’s the reason you jump?”
Songs of the Gorilla Nation by Dawn Prince-Hughes
In this thought-provoking memoir, Dawn Prince-Hughes traces her personal growth from undiagnosed autism to the moment when, as a young woman, she entered the Seattle Zoo and immediately became fascinated with the gorillas. Having suffered from a lifelong inability to relate to people in a meaningful way, Dawn was surprised to find herself irresistibly drawn to these great primates. By observing them and, later, working with them, she was finally able to emerge from her solitude and connect to living beings in a way she had never previously experienced.
Thinking in Pictures: My Life With Autism by Temple Grandin
A gifted animal scientist who has designed one-third of all the livestock-handling facilities in the United States, Temple Grandin also lectures widely on autism, drawing on her life experiences. In this seminal work, Grandin delivers a report from what she calls the "country of autism.” Writing from the dual perspectives of a scientist and an autistic person, she tells us how that country is experienced by its inhabitants and how she managed to breach its boundaries to function in the outside world.
What I Mean When I Say I'm Autistic by Annie Kotowicz
In this mix of memoir and manifesto, local author Annie Kotowicz shares the trials and triumphs of a life before and after diagnosis. Drawing on stories from her blog Neurobeautiful — along with memories never shared before — Kotowicz offers insights and encouragement to anyone who wants to understand autism better. Her memoir offers an analysis of her autistic thinking, a guide to autistic thriving, and a celebration of autistic brains.
If you're looking for more books with autistic characters, check out the following resources:
Autistic Authors Project attempts to catalog all books (published in English) that are written by an autistic author and are related to autism. Includes both fiction and nonfiction.
Autism Society offers its recommendations of digital, picture, and chapter books with autistic characters.
Disability Equality Education is dedicated to inclusive disability education and advocacy. You'll find books written by autistic authors featuring autistic characters, movies about autistic individuals, and other resources.
A Novel Mind is a wonderful resource for exploring children's literature that deals with mental health and neurodiversity issues. The site features a searchable database. Autistic children’s author Sally J. Pla is editor-in-chief.
Not an Autism Mom offers booklists for children, teens/tweens, parents, and autistic adults. Also hosts “That Au-Some Book Club,” featuring interviews with authors, bloggers, and advocates.
We Need Diverse Books is a nonprofit organization that advocates for changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.