Meg Eden Kuyatt
March 7, 2023
Always follow the rules for “normal” people: no crying in public, smile and nod, tell people you’re “fine.” But Selah doesn’t always want to be normal. In fact, she wants to be a dragon—escaping to fly free above the chaotic world below. She is pretty good at hiding her feelings in order to fit in, until an outburst at school pits Selah against her classmates, the school administration, and her mom. This leaves poetry (and her grandfather) as her only avenues to explore her feelings when speech fails her. A chance encounter with an understanding vendor at FantasyCon opens her eyes to a new definition for her experience—autism.
Kuyatt’s novel in verse follows Selah’s journey as a burgeoning poet and her exploration of neurodivergence as an explanation for the feeling and reactions she has always thought of as weird. Selah’s perspective shifts through the novel from a longing to hide, to self-discovery, to a desire to advocate for her needs, her loved ones, and her place in the world. Harsh treatment by teachers and school administrators, and her mother’s denial of any differences, paint a lonely picture of Selah’s experience. Other caring adults in her life help lighten the tone of this story, which focuses primarily on her struggles. As narrator, Selah’s typical seventh-grade self-centeredness leaves secondary characters like her mother, grandfather, and best friend less well-defined than they could be and add to the sense of isolation. Through her own determination, Selah finds her voice and a way to work with her world instead of against it. A thoughtful endnote, detailing the author’s own autism diagnosis as an adult, places the text as both a mirror for undiagnosed kids and a potential tool for adult readers, and provides an uplifting interpretation of neurodivergence as a strength rather than problem.