Summary: Eighteen year-old Taylor is less than impressed when her mother decides to take her to Waskesiu, Saskatchewan for the summer in pursuit of her latest boyfriend. Having just graduated from high school with a unique view of the world thanks to having Asperger’s Syndrome, Taylor is uncertain and scared when it comes to thinking about the future, but the independence she gains while her mother is working proves she only has to be herself for things to work out. With her ability to remember facts about subjects that interest her and her honest insights about life Taylor finds unexpected doors are opened and new friendships are fostered during her stay. Slowly she begins to see a future for herself that is larger than high school.
Number of Pages: 154
Age Range: 13-15
Review: In this rare portrayal of a young woman dealing with Asperger’s Syndrome, Wild Orchid by Beverley Brenna immerses her reader completely in Taylor’s perspective. It’s an apt title, as Taylor truly is as exceptional as the orchids she seeks to find.
At times it isn’t the easiest read. Taylor’s view takes time to adjust to, as she is quite literal and linear in her interpretation of the world. Getting to know Taylor means falling in love with her though, as she is spirited and vulnerable at the same time. But Brenna’s writing makes me realise this vulnerability is not the result of a character flaw on Taylor’s part; instead it comes from others’ inability to give her the time and space to process stimulus and express herself.
People that do are rewarded. Though I too was tempted to write off Paul as a bad man (for different reasons than Taylor’s), I came to the conclusion that the connection he and Taylor had was real. Yes, he was married, but he was a sensitive and gentle man who sincerely saw and listened to Taylor. And because he did, he too couldn’t help but fall in love.
I love how just by being herself, Taylor’s persistent nature and pursuit of knowledge gets her a job in a bookstore and is the basis of her new friendships. I also love the essays in her journal, chronicling her experiences and reactions. The one entitled, “My Mother is a Pathological Liar” was my favourite, because I had figured out her mother’s intentions before Taylor had and was interested to read how she would react.
The relationship between Taylor and her mother is complicated. as sometimes Taylor’s mother seems like a child herself. With her revolving door of relationships and her intermittent frustration with Taylor, I still knew at the heart of everything she had an overwhelming desire to protect Taylor from being hurt by others. Wild Orchid is also about how Taylor’s mother learns that not everyone will reject Taylor as others have.
I think because of Taylor’s views and reactions, she comes off as younger than eighteen and thus her book is suitable for younger teen readers. But Wild Orchid and the books that follow are a must read for anyone looking for insight into a life with Asperger’s. It is an honest and insightful series.
“That person, I can’t remember who it was right now, who said the pen was mightier than the sword – I think they were wrong. I think the eraser is actually the most powerful tool. I wish there was an eraser that could erase the things a person did. And erase other people. Writing things down doesn’t erase anything. What’s done is done, and that really sucks.” – Taylor from Wild Orchid by Beverley Brenna, page 80
“It’s useless when people tell you not to worry, though – there’s plenty to worry about in this world.
I started thinking that maybe the secret is that you can worry all you like, but you just have to go ahead without letting on that you’re afraid. That’s what I want to tell Stanley. Just to go on.” – Taylor from Wild Orchid by Beverley Brenna, page 87
“‘Asperger’s Syndrome,’ I said. ‘It’s a kind of autism that people get if parts of their brains are too small and other parts are extra large. I have it. The amygdala, which is part of the brain, is smaller than in most people’s brains. You get born with Asperger’s Syndrome if there’s the right balance of heredity and environment.’
‘Like orchids,’ said Paul, softly.” – Taylor from Wild Orchid by Beverley Brenna, page 90
“‘But how do you stop being afraid?’ he asked, and his hands made little jerks up and down.
‘I guess you don’t really ever stop,’ I said, after thinking about it for a few minutes. ‘But you just have to go on. Like Stanley. You just have to get up in the morning and see what happens. Even though it’s hard.'” – Conversation between Paul and Taylor from Wild Orchid by Beverley Brenna, page 99