Neurodiverse Character Representation in MM Romance
I have a 13-year-old kiddo with autism, so when I saw that Riley Hart wrote a book with an autistic main character, I was both excited and a little nervous about reading it.
I think I was nervous about whether the character would be likeable or relatable, but I shouldn’t have worried because Riley did a great job with that.
I’m happy to see any positive representation of people with autism in media. I noticed from a few reviews on Goodreads that there were some autistic folks who didn’t feel it was a realistic representation of someone with ASD.
I thought it was maybe an incomplete picture, but I didn’t necessarily feel like it was incorrect. One of the crazy things about autism is that it looks different, and is experienced differently by everyone who has it. My son happens to have a lot of similar characteristics to Milo, Some of these are stereotypes, certainly, but stereotypes occasionally exist for a reason. Naturally, a real human being is going to have much more complexity and nuance in their behavior than a character in a romance novel. In this type of book, I wouldn’t expect all the nitty gritty details of someone’s behaviors to be fleshed out- in the end, the book is a fantasy.
That being said, I do think it would have been better if there were more uses of the word “autism” in the book. For someone who isn’t familiar with the behaviors, it would be easy to make it through the book without knowing Milo was autistic. I would have liked it much more if Milo talked openly about his autism and how it affected his relationship.
I think the more we use the term, the less scary it will be for people. The more we show autistic people, the more chances we have to help educate people, even in the smallest way, about what autism is, and I do think there’s value in that.
Overall, though, I really liked the book and loved both characters. Seeing Milo get his happy ending was wonderful.