15 Books for Tweens That Celebrate Neurodiversity
Neurodiversity—the recognition that some brains work differently than the neurotypical brain—is becoming a more widely discussed and understood topic. Neurological differences include autism, ADD/ADHD, OCD, dyslexia, and Tourette’s syndrome. Reading stories with neurodiverse characters or books about neurodiversity can help young readers who identify with an atypical approach to the world feel less alone and isolated. It can also help neurotypical readers build empathy and awareness about different ways of learning and being a part of society. And we all can relate to the neurodiverse characters in these books who feel like they don’t fit in at school or home.
Here are 15 of our favorite books about neurodiversity that make you want to stay up late to see how the story ends.
(Just a heads up, WeAreTeachers may collect a share of sales from the links on this page. We only recommend items our team loves!)
Fifty-Four Things Wrong With Gwendolyn Rogers by Caela Carter
After sneakily reading her IEP report, fifth grader Gwendolyn discovers 54 things that are “wrong” with her, and no matter how hard she tries to control her anger, she ends up causing problems. This is a hopeful and touching story about understanding how “thinking differently” can be a gift, not a curse.
Buy it: Fifty-Four Things Wrong With Gwendolyn Rogers at Amazon
Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Jason, a 12-year-old boy with autism, has always felt alone until he meets PhoenixBird (aka Rebecca) online. They are like peas in a pod in their online chats, but he’s scared to meet her IRL. This heartfelt page-turner offers deep insights into the struggles of autistic kids or anyone who has ever felt like they don’t fit in.
Buy it: Anything but Typical at Amazon
A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold
Bat, a third grader with autism, hates loud noises but loves animals. He is thrilled when his veterinarian mom brings home a wild skunk for the weekend. He wants to prove to her that this would be the perfect pet—and that leads to lots of humorous antics and adventures. This is a sweet and tender book about neurodiversity that is particularly good for younger tween readers.
Buy it: A Boy Called Bat at Amazon
Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
This sad yet heartwarming story centers around Willow, a 12-year-old genius who has always been a bit of a loner and different from her peers. When her adoptive parents die in a tragic car accident, her life begins to take many unexpected twists and turns as she finds comfort from a diverse cast of characters. Empathy and recognition of what really matters in life are big themes in this beloved book.
Buy it: Counting by 7s at Amazon
Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz
Molly’s OCD is becoming more and more of a challenge as she struggles to find control amid the chaos of her parents’ divorce and her mom’s move to a new city. This book is brimming with heart, humor, and practical coping strategies, and is relatable to anyone who has faced hard times with friends and family.
Buy it: Finding Perfect at Amazon
Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Sixth grader Ally struggles with school and is considered “dumb” and a “pest” by most teachers until she lands in Mr. Daniels’ class. Her life totally turns around when he realizes she has dyslexia and is able to provide her with appropriate support. It’s a highly engaging story about friendships, overcoming adversity, and appreciating our own unique intelligence.
Buy it: Fish in a Tree at Amazon
Frankie and Amelia by Cammie McGovern
Told from the perspective of Frankie, a sassy cat, readers learn about the challenges faced by Amelia, an autistic tween girl, as she navigates school, friendships, and home life. This story honors the role that animals can play in providing an outlet and support to neurodivergent kids. The unique and super-likable characters make it a compelling read.
Buy it: Frankie and Amelia at Amazon
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling
Aven, a confident and charming eighth grader who is active and independent despite being born with no arms, must figure out how to fit into a new community when her family moves to Arizona to operate a rundown theme park. She befriends Connor, who has Tourette’s syndrome, and Zion, who is shy and awkward, and recruits them to help her uncover who is the mysterious owner of the theme park. This suspenseful story is full of empathy and wit as each character discovers new things about themselves and the meaning of true friendship.
Buy it: Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus at Amazon
The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty
After being struck by lightning as a young girl, Lucy acquired genius-level math skills—and OCD. Even though she could be in college at age 12, her grandmother forces her to attend her local middle school. Readers will fall in love with Lucy as she experiences the trials and tribulations of middle school and learns to appreciate diversity and embrace making new friends and trying new things.
Buy it: The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl at Amazon
OCDaniel by Wesley King
Thirteen-year-old Daniel works hard to hide his OCD ticks from his friends and family. The only person who seems to notice is a girl that others unkindly call “Psycho Sara.” When he receives a mysterious note from ”Fellow Star Child” asking for his help, he is thrust into an adventure that forces him to recognize, embrace, and handle his obsessive behavior. This funny and tender story is full of complex plot twists that will keep readers engaged and wanting to know what happens next.
Buy it: OCDaniel at Amazon
Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
Rose, an autistic girl obsessed with homonyms, loses her beloved dog (Rain Reign) during a wild storm and must push through her fears and worries to find her. Rose’s unique perspective on the world is charming, and her courage is inspiring. Full of heart and tenderness, this is one of the best books about neurodiversity that reminds readers of the importance of kindness and honoring our differences.
Buy it: Rain Reign at Amazon
See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng
Eleven-year-old Alex is completely obsessed with space and wants to send his iPod full of his recordings about life on Earth into outer space. His obsession takes him on a wild road trip through the Southwest, where he is embraced and welcomed by a motley crew of adults. This adventure tale is full of optimism, hope, and intrigue as Alex uncovers secrets about his long-lost dad and the true meaning of family.
Buy it: See You in the Cosmos at Amazon
The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla
This intriguing coming-of-age tale focuses on Charlie, an autistic boy whose war journalist father suffered serious injuries while traveling. When he and his rowdy siblings go on a cross-country trip to get medical care for their dad, he finds spotting birds along the way to be an effective way to cope with all the turmoil. This is one of the great books about neurodiversity that blends sadness with joy and celebrates the human ability to adapt to difficulties and the power of family ties.
Buy it: The Someday Birds at Amazon
Tune It Out by Jamie Sumner
It’s always been Lou and her mom against the world as they live paycheck to paycheck out of their car. Lou has an undiagnosed sensory-processing disorder. She has severe panic attacks when she is immersed in loud crowds or touched by strangers. Child services separates Lou from her mom and sends her to live with her aunt in Nashville, where she is introduced to a new way of living that allows her to relax and try new things. A moving and powerful story about family, coming of age, and overcoming obstacles.
Buy it: Tune It Out at Amazon
A Whole New Ballgame by Phil Bildner
This smart and funny story centers around two best friends: Red is easygoing and flexible, while Rip, who is autistic, craves structure and sameness. When they get a new wacky teacher who doesn’t believe in homework or tests (gasp!), they must lean on each other to deal with school, sports, and classmates. A funny and adventure-filled story that honors the individuality in each of us.
Buy it: A Whole New Ballgame at Amazon
Have you read any of these 15 books about neurodiversity? Let us know in the WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.
Plus, check out these shelf-worthy books about disabilities for all students.
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