I was provided with a free eARC through Edelweiss in exchange for my honest opinion.
I’ll be honest. The adult romance genre really isn’t for me. That’s a personal preference so I won’t go into why I didn’t like that aspect of the book – I feel like that wouldn’t be fair, because I knew I’d feel that way going in.
The reason I read this book is the #ownvoices autism rep. I could really relate to Stella, the main character in The Kiss Quotient, so I was hoping to feel the same way about The Bride Test. This kind of representation is very hard to find, so I was happy to suspend my genre preferences to read this book. And I wasn’t disappointed.
I loved how right at the start, this novel showed the damage it does when neurotypical people judge someone’s ability to feel by how they think someone is “supposed to” react to certain things. Like thinking you can’t grieve if you don’t cry.
This convinces Khai that there must be something wrong with him and he tells himself he has a “stone heart” and can’t feel things. I was glad to see that these internalized feelings were challenged and overcome in the book.
Luckily, Khai’s family ends up being quite supportive. Even if they don’t really acknowledge him being autistic (except for his brother), they do try to understand him and generally give him the space to be himself.
I loved that in Esme, the love interest, as well. Aside from her being a strong, interesting character, I also loved how accepting she was of Khai. Throughout the novel, she has no idea what autism is, and sometimes she doesn’t understand Khai and things go wrong between them because of misunderstandings. But she’s never judges him and quickly adjusts to his needs whenever he does succeed in telling her about them. At the same time, she wasn’t a one-dimensional character there to support him, but rather a well-rounded character.
One really relatable moment is when Khai’s mother tells Esme that if she wants something from Khai, she just has to tell him, because he won’t know all by himself. I feel like this is a pretty universal autistic experience, because I’m forever baffled at how neurotypical people seem to know exactly what the other person wants, even if they don’t say so, or even worse, say the exact opposite. Why is it such a wild concept to just… say what you think?
“You don’t have the flu. This is how your heart breaks. It’s like you hurt too much for your brain to process, and then your body shuts down, too.”
My experience with being autistic isn’t quite the same as Khai’s; everyone’s experience is different, after all. And women’s experience is generally quite different from men’s experience. But just like The Kiss Quotient, this book was filled with all these tiny things of what it means to be autistic, like certain things that are confusing, or stressful, or frustrating, or all of the above, and how that feels, and they were so relatable for me.
My heart broke for all the ways Khai tried to camouflage his autism, because it hit so close to home. All the tiny signs of disapprovement you pick up on from people, all the small ways in which you notice they think you’re reacting oddly.
All in all, the way autism was portrayed in this novel made me really happy, because it made me feel seen. It can be difficult to realize other people do have similar experiences and you’re not the only one struggling, so books like this, that represent autism from the author’s own experience, are so helpful and so needed. I can only hope more autistic authors will get the chance to write autistic (main) characters, because this kind of book is still really hard to come by.
Honestly, if you want to read a genuine perspective on autism, don’t read books by neurotypical authors but seek out own voices authors! It makes all the difference.
Do you know of any books with own voices autism rep?
Love this!! I have The Kiss Quotient on my TBR and have been looking forward to it! I just read A Girl Like Her by Talia Hibbert which is an #ownvoices artistic WOC New Adult romance. I didn’t like it as much as I hoped as the majority of book reviewers I follow absolutely love it…
LikeLiked by 1 person
Wow, it’s #ownvoices autistic… darn autocorrect
LikeLiked by 1 person
I also read The Bride Test for the autism rep only so I might read an ebook for this! Thank you for the tip!!😊
LikeLiked by 1 person
Amazing review! I have added this to my TBR 🙂