Today it’s time to finally review a book that’s immediately become very special to me: Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen! by Sarah Kapit. This was the first time I read an (Own Voices) middlegrade book with an autistic main character, and it was so important to me to see my young self represented like that. I can only hope this will be a very helpful read for autistic kids today.
In this perfectly pitched novel-in-letters, autistic eleven-year-old Vivy Cohen won’t let anything stop her from playing baseball–not when she has a major-league star as her pen pal. 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! Now Vivy is a full-fledged pitcher, with a catcher as a new best friend and a steady stream of advice from VJ. But when a big accident puts her back on the bench, Vivy has to fight to stay on the team.
Rep: autistic Jewish MC, gay Jewish side character, Black side character
CWs: (internalized) ableism, autistic meltdowns, bullying, mentions of racism, concussion, hospital, medical examination
I don’t often start reading a book the day I get my copy. But I just had to with this one.
This is honestly such an endearing book. There’s something special about novels in letters, and it worked so well here. The entire correspondence between Vivy and the professional baseball player she writes to just oozes kindness, and it was amazing to read.
I can’t quite put into words how important it is to me that I got to read this book. And because I’m saying this as an autistic adult, I can only imagine how important it is for autistic kids to be able to see themselves in this book.
We definitely still do have a long way to go when it comes to autism representation that actually centers autistic voices. And I’m so glad that this book does exactly that.
My absolute favourite thing was how unapologetically autistic this was, right from the start. I tabbed so many quotes because they resonated so much. There are explicit remarks on what it’s like to be autistic, but also a lot of subtle ones that you might not pick up on unless you’re autistic. This book just captures the essence of what it’s like to be autistic so perfectly.
I loved to see Vivy stimming on the page, and engage in so many autistic behaviours. But I hated seeing her mother and her therapist trying to discourage her from that and encouraging her to mask. This felt really harmful to me, and while I was glad to see that Vivy herself didn’t seem very impressed, I still would have loved to at least see more development here. It would have been good to have the mother realize this is not the way to support Vivy the best and to change. There was definitely some development when it comes to Vivy’s mother, but I would have liked for it to be more focused on her realizing she hasn’t completely given Vivy the support she needs.
When I was Vivy’s age, 11 years old, I had no idea I was autistic. And I wouldn’t have an idea for years to come, even though I did wonder. A lot. It was amazing to see a main character who’s so sure of what it means to be autistic and who’s so empowered. I can only hope that it will resonate just as much with other readers.
Have you read this book? Is it on your TBR?
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