Please Don’t Hug Me, by Kay Kerr
I really loved this own voices book, the highlight of it being the voice of seventeen-year-old narrator Erin, who shares with us, through a series of letters she writes to her brother Rudy, her inner-most thoughts. While all her school friends are going on about how much they are looking forward to schoolies, Erin just wants to get though each day without too having too many moments to add to her ‘cringe-list.' Other priorities include finding a new job after losing her job at Surf Zone, and excelling in her exams. Perhaps, most importantly, Erin longs to see her brother Rudy again.
Many teenagers battle awkwardness at this age – but for Erin, who is autistic, making sense of the world around her is just that little bit more challenging. Just trying to read social cues, navigate sensory overload, and avoid ‘outbursts’ can feel quite overwhelming.
Erin hooks us in with the rawness and intimacy of her voice as she writes to Rudy about these daily challenges. In many ways I found myself relating to some of these ‘cringe-worthy’ situations Erin finds herself in, nodding with recognition as she talks about over-thinking everything, or sometimes enjoying the anticipation of big events rather than the actual event. Other issues Erin shares with her readers, such as the changing dynamics of friendship groups, and seeking to understand your own worth, will resonate with many teen readers, making Erin a narrator her readers can empathise with.
This is a story about navigating change, developing new friendships, finding your voice, and embarking on the path to healing. Kay Kerr handles serious issues with a light touch. There are frequent flashes of humour, even while Erin divulges her cringe-list moments, and battles her raw feelings of sadness.
There are many laugh out loud moments in this book, alongside other moments where you feel your heart breaking a little. Erin’s letters to her brother provide a means for her to process what is going on around her, and move towards finding an understanding of who she is and what she wants. I love the way she describes her brain as ‘limited edition.’ She is indeed a unique and compelling narrator who you will barrack for until the last page, and continue to hope that she can ultimately realise her worth and find her place in the world.
Once you pick up this book you won’t be able to put it down! (And of course the cover is eye-catchingly gorgeous). Add it to your reading list!