Beyond Violet by Hilary Hawkes
When you first start reading Beyond Violet, it appears to just be another pseudo journal written from a preteen point of view. And then you begin to realize something. You begin to see how important this book could be. Ellie is a twelve-year-old girl with the usual issues of people her age. She has friendships to maintain, and the stress of being a seventh grader. She has family and homework and a duck named Crispie. She has an autistic older sister named Lucy and a mother dealing with a crippling cycle of depression. Ellie knows that her sister is different from other people, but she’s always been in her life and Ellie is used to Lucy. Her mother’s depression is far harder on her than Lucy’s autism because she doesn’t understand it as much.
Using the journal of a twelve-year-old girl to highlight important issues of Autism and mental illness is what makes this book special. It introduces these issues to children in a familiar and fun manner. At times however, it felt more like a propaganda pamphlet for a charity than an actual piece of fiction. More insight into the lives of the characters would be beneficial to the story, especially further explanations of Ruth and her motives. Why did she work for the Rainbow Clinic? Did she have a personal experience with mental illness? While Ellie usually operated in a realm of confusion over her mother’s condition, she didn’t seem to respond with her own feelings of neglect or sadness. The book could be significantly longer if it followed the family for more time. It just seemed like too brief of a glimpse to fully understand the family dynamic, but there is no doubt that Ellie could be seen as a source of inspiration for children dealing with similar challenges.
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