Reviewed by Michael Gray.
Stim, a young-adult novel by Christchurch writer Kevin Berry, is about Robert from Christchurch. Robert is a self-described aspie (a slang term for someone with Asperger’s syndrome). The novel documents his adventures with inner monologue and diary entries, on his quest to find a girlfriend and experience, well.. sex. The world operates differently to Robert, and Robert often finds himself in all pickle of social situations. Situations you can’t help but chuckle at and empathise with.
If I have one gripe with Stim it’s that the earthquake advertised in the book’s sub-title and blurb, Christchurch’s September 2010 quake, doesn’t happen until the end of the book. From what I’ve read so far, Kaleidoscope, the sequel to Stim, focusses more on living in an ‘earthquake zone’ with the February 2011 quake.
Stim has given me a greater insight into the autism spectrum. It’s slowly paced, so don’t go in expecting a dystopian Hunger Games thrill-ride of a young adult novel. It’s a light-hearted personal journey about someone with neurodiversity. It’s a story you don’t often get to hear. It’s Robert’s story.
Order Stim from us now. RR. $24
“What do you think, Rodney? Do you like the blue? Or would black be better? They say black never goes out of fashion. And the trousers? Do they look too tight?”
“Blue’s fine, dear, and the trousers too,” said the man, who was possibly her husband. I noticed how quickly he was able to assess the suitability of his wife’s choice of clothes, for he simply glanced at her for a moment before swivelling his gaze back to a tall blonde woman trying on an impractical pair of shoes.
“Pay attention, Rodney. This is important. I simply can’t wear clothes that make me look dowdy. Now, are these trousers fine, or should I try on the striped ones? Stripes are slimming, you know. Or maybe you don’t know. But of course if I go for the striped trousers, I can’t have the blue blouse. I would have to have the black one. Or a white one. Are you listening, dear?”
Another brief glance back. “Yes, dear. They’re fine. Don’t fret.”
“I’m not fretting. I’m very particular about my appearance. It must be just right.” She turned to present a profile view to her husband, who was not watching anyway, and hissed, “Does my bum look big in this?”
“You look fine, dear,” said the man, concentrating intently on a young woman browsing through the cardigans.
“Oh, you’re hopeless,” said the woman. She spun around to face me. “You look like a sensible young man. What do you think of this outfit?”
I considered for a moment, intent on being as helpful as possible.
“Your bum does look big in those trousers,” I said. “It quite bulges out, in fact. I think you should choose a much larger pair. The blouse also. It looks very tight under your breasts.”
Stim by Kevin Berry RRP $24