Maybe in Paris was the kind of book that had a really strong premise, and I expected a lot from it. As a book that features a character on the Autism spectrum, I really hoped for the best here, because there aren’t enough books out there that accurately portray autism. My almost eight year old daughter was diagnosed with Autism when she was three, so I get it, I do. And this was not what I was hoping for. This book just didn’t really display autism in a positive light, and I’m going to talk more about this later on in my review.
Keira has always wanted to go to Paris. She loves everything to do with it and spends her time obsessing over French culture – including dressing as Marie Antoinette for prom. In fact, she loves it so much, she has had a crush on a French exchange student all year, and is planning a trip to go to Paris during the summer. She has saved up a lot of money to make her dream come true, and is just about to go, when something unthinkable happens – her autistic younger brother, Levi, tries to kill himself.
She finds herself upset that she cannot go to Paris now, not when her brother is in the hospital and clearly needs to be looked after. But then she comes up with a great idea – why not try and help cheer Levi up by asking if he would like to go to Paris with her?
“Levi and I have something in common. We both want to leave this place. The only difference is that I want to come back. I want to shepherd him out into the world, show him how beautiful it is, and come home again carrying sparks inside us. Maybe if she sees the world, sees everything it has to offer in a brand-new corner of it, he’ll want to stay in it.”
While Keria’s motives are good, she isn’t sure their mother will let her take him with her. However, once he receives the green light from his doctors, their mother reluctantly decides to give her a chance.
Once they get to Paris, it isn’t what Keira was expecting, however – Levi doesn’t have any interest in doing the things she has planned for them. He doesn’t want to visit museums, or eat at a French café – instead, he wants to stay in the hotel room and eat at McDonald’s. When the two of them do go out and explore, Keira is upset by Levi’s reactions to everything – he is distant and uninterested, and constantly insults both Keira and the things she likes.
When Keira meets a guy, things change for her – she is instantly falling for him and starts leaving Levi behind in the hotel room to go and do things with him instead of Levi, not even noticing that Levi isn’t doing so well and that he is upset about things. When something serious happens, Keira is forced to look at things in a new light.
I really wanted to like this book. I absolutely love books that focus on travel, and I thought that a book that takes place in Paris with a young girl and her autistic brother could be a really fantastic read. Paris is somewhere I would absolutely love to go one day, and that part of the book was amazing – the author did a fantastic job talking about the sights in Paris, the delicious food, and the way she painted the picture of a quaint little bakery that Keira and Levi visited every morning made me fall in love with that aspect of this. I just wish my love for this could have carried on a little bit further than just the setting.
I absolutely hated Keira and Levi’s mom. I mean, for starters, she seriously called Keria a slut in the beginning of the book, and she is constantly telling her daughter (her daughter!) how much of a failure she is, no matter what she does. Whether it’s falling for a guy who doesn’t like her back or dreaming of going on vacation – everything single thing is wrong. It drove me crazy. I hated the relationship that they had – it wasn’t healthy for Keira to constantly been told that she will never be good enough. At least her stepdad, Josh, was a pretty awesome guy. He made sure to make Keria feel loved, even when her mother didn’t.
Another thing I had a hard time really liking about the book was Keira’s character. She was incredibly self-centered and really didn’t seem like she had anyone except her own best interests at heart. She does have a few instances where she actually appears to care about Levi, such as when she actually asked him to go to Paris with her, but they seem far and few in between. I mean, honestly – who takes their autistic brother to Paris and leaves him alone in a hotel room while they hang out with a random guy? Yeah. Well, Keira does. At least I can say that she does seem to grow up a bit by the end of the book, finally realizing that she’s being a bit selfish and starts to come to terms with her family life.
Speaking of Keira’s autistic brother, Levi, we are informed in the beginning of the book that he has autism, the possibility of schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. Not only that, but he wasn’t diagnosed with any of this until he was sixteen years old. So…his parents never really paid attention to any of this, or else they were really just that clueless? I don’t know, but seriously, how can you not tell your child has possible mental disorders, and just continue on with your life until that child is sixteen years old? I had thoughts about my daughter’s socialization and development when she was only two, so not really sure how you manage to ignore that for such a long time. Sure, there are instances of this happening I guess, but the way that Levi’s conditions were referred to in this book made it obvious that he has had issues way before the present, so why weren’t they looked into?
All in all, I thought this was a nice read for summer, even if it’s for the setting of the book alone. I do think that the way Keira and Levi’s mother treat Keira is horrible, and that Keira needed to grow up a bit more, but other than that, the book does have its upside.