Friday, November 16, 2012


How well do we really know another person? And in adolescence, when everybody is changing--from their physical looks to their aspirations of belonging--it can seem as if the ground is shifting beneath teens who are navigating home life, school life and the world at large. Colin Fischer by Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz captures this feeling of "outsiderdom" and "'turns [it] up to 11,' to use a Spinal Tap phrase," as Zack Stentz put it when I got to interview the co-authors recently.

Zack Stentz (l.) and Ashley Edward Miller
Through notebook entries and footnotes we get to know the inner workings of Colin Fischer's mind. He looks at the world a bit differently, as a brilliant kid who also has Asperger's. We walk with him through his days. His need to decode his world, to get to the truth of his experience and the events around him, border on obsessive. So much so that when the kid who has bullied Colin all his life and is wrongly accused of bringing a gun to school, Colin cannot rest until he finds the true culprit.

In this way, the authors tap into the universal adolescent experience, with humor and insight. Either we fearlessly go in search of the truth or try to run from it, which can often lead to drug or alcohol use and other delinquent behavior. Colin would rather team up with wrongly-accused Wayne to discover the real villain than to let Wayne take the rap for something he did not do. Colin is fascinating to watch, and thanks to the authors, we get an intimate view of his internal logic and the way he unravels the mystery of not only the true gun owner but also the mystery of his life.

Kids can't help but gain appreciation for Colin and, through Colin, for other outsider kids whom they may have misjudged or overlooked. It's an invitation to understand someone else, who may seem to be unlike you on the surface, but whose passions and pursuits are just as (or perhaps more so, in Colin's case) involving and inspiring.

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