Ellen Outside the Lines by A.J. Sass
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary
Publishing Date: March 22, 2022
Rain Reign meets Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World in this heartfelt novel about a neurodivergent thirteen-year-old navigating changing friendships, a school trip, and expanding horizons.
Thirteen-year-old Ellen Katz feels most comfortable when her life is well planned out and people fit neatly into her predefined categories. She attends temple with Abba and Mom every Friday and Saturday. Ellen only gets crushes on girls, never boys, and she knows she can always rely on her best-and-only friend, Laurel, to help navigate social situations at their private Georgia middle school. Laurel has always made Ellen feel like being autistic is no big deal. But lately, Laurel has started making more friends, and cancelling more weekend plans with Ellen than she keeps. A school trip to Barcelona seems like the perfect place for Ellen to get their friendship back on track. Except it doesn’t. Toss in a new nonbinary classmate whose identity has Ellen questioning her very binary way of seeing the world, homesickness, a scavenger hunt-style team project that takes the students through Barcelona to learn about Spanish culture and this trip is anything but what Ellen planned.
Making new friends and letting go of old ones is never easy, but Ellen might just find a comfortable new place for herself if she can learn to embrace the fact that life doesn’t always stick to a planned itinerary.
About the Author:
A. J. Sass (he/they) is an author, editor, and competitive figure skater who is interested in how intersections of identity, neurodiversity, and allyship can impact story narratives. He is the author of Ana on the Edge, a Booklist Editors’ Choice 2020 and ALA 2021 Rainbow Book List Top 10 for Young Readers selection, and Ellen Outside the Lines (Little, Brown, 2022), the co-author of Camp QUILTBAG* with Nicole Melleby (Algonquin, 2023), as well as a contributor to the This Is Our Rainbow: 16 Stories of Her, Him, Them, and Us (Knopf) and Allies: Real Talk about Showing Up, Screwing Up, and Trying Again (DK US & UK) anthologies. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his boyfriend and two cats who act like dogs.
At the beginning of each year I like to go through Goodreads and pick out Middle Grade Books and add them to my wishlist so I can buy when the book is out.
So I was aware of Ellen Outside the LInes and jumped at the chance to go on the tour TBR Tours & Beyond had set up. I was so excited when I was approved which I am grateful for having this chance. I had a feeling that this book was going to be good but instead it beat my expectations to a pulp.
Here we have Ellen who is ND and is about to have life changing summer with her Father at her side. I just loved Ellen as a character and even though she had this condition to deal with she handled things in my view pretty well and I loved the encouragement her Parents gave her.
The bulk of the story is set in Spain and AJ did an amazing job of describing the sites and sounds it made me feel as if I was there. I also felt Ellen's loss when she realised that her only Best Friend Laurel wanted different things but I must say the way she treated Ellen actually pulled at my heartstrings but then my heart soared when Ellen was beginning to make friends with Isa who was nonbinary, Gibs who had ADHD and Andy after ending up on the scavenger team.
I just want to say there are only two authors who have literally destroyed me and turn me into a sobbing wreck through their writing and they are Elle McNichol and now A J Sass. For all these reasons AJ gets 5 stars and now I will be auto buying their books