Saving Max by Antoinette van Heugten

Originally posted 2016-10-01 12:00:51.

Teenager Max Parkman has Autism and he’s suspected of murder. Saving Max is only the latest incarnation of the Autistic/Asperger’s title-character trend, and it is likely the least realistic of them all. Max’s behaviors are inconsistent and really don’t seem too characteristic of Asperger’s or Autism. Moreover, Max’s mother, Danielle, is not the most likable of protagonists. By “not the most likable,” I mean that she is not likable in any way. Overrun with a lack of realism and no one to root for, Saving Max is a massive waste of time.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a sucker for these sorts of books. From Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time to Jodi Picoult’s House Rules, I am unable to stop myself from reading fiction about Autism. It is almost always disappointing. Tolerable. Even marginally enjoyable. But always at least a little disappointing. Saving Max takes the cake, though. Danielle claims that Max suffers from Asperger’s, but it seems more like he is just mean and distant to people that he dislikes. I am the first to admit that I am no expert on Asperger’s or Autism, but I do have at least a working knowledge based on the embarrassing amount of fiction that I have read on the subject. The portrayal of Max just seems off.

As for Danielle, she really comes off as a sleazy lawyer, one that we don’t want to see win. Professionally and privately, this woman just seems icky. She is more interested in saving her own ass than the well-being of her son, an much of the novel focuses on her self-justifications regarding her questionable parenting decisions.

Densely-written and intensely aggravating on a variety of levels, Saving Max has an interesting premise that is brutally mutilated. It could have been great, but all it really was is disappointing.

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