Cover Image: Paige Not Found

Paige Not Found

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Member Reviews

This middle-grade novel focuses on Paige, a girl with autism, her neurotypical best friend Mara, and the people they meet as they try to do battle with an Elon Musk-type baddie who thinks neurodivergent people need to be fixed.

Along the way, they make friends with other children with autism: Kelsey, who hates that her influencer mom posts Kelsey’s meltdowns for her followers to see. Marcus, who is nonverbal, and his protective big sister Gabby.

Paige feels like her parents just want her to be “normal”, and when she finds out they had an experimental device implanted in her brain (they told her she was getting her tonsils out), she is angry that they can’t accept her for how she is. Even worse, the company that created the implant is about to enter an agreement with a Facebook-like entity, which means all the information about what goes on in the brains of Paige and other test subjects is about to go public.

Rather than accept that fate, the kids fight back. And here’s the good thing: the way they do it is actually pretty realistic.

Of course, there are problems along the way. There is the usual middle school trope of having a best friend become friends with someone else. Here it is further complicated by Paige’s realization that she is nonbinary and is attracted to Mara.

Things are wrapped up with a pretty satisfying conclusion.
Overall, I found the narrative easy to follow. Paige’s conflicts were realistic, even though the underlying premise was maybe a bit out there. Descriptions of Paige’s personal challenges with autism, emotions, stimming, and anxiety were realistic, but, from the acknowledgements, I gather that the author, to, has autism.

I loved this representation of the idea that those who are neurodivergent do not need to be “fixed” and that their voices matter in how they treated.

Possible Objectionable Material:
Anxiety meltdowns, hiding things from parents, lots of videogaming, sneaking around. Paige, while a “girl”, feels nonbinary and is attracted to another girl.

Who Might Like This Book:
Those who like coming of age, neurodivergent characters, beating big corporations.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing and ARC for my honest review.

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Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC
Paige not found is the perfect title for this book. Paige really does not know where she fits and her journey through the book is heartbreaking and heartwarming. At first the narrative perspective felt odd to me, but as I continued reading I found that it truly suited the story.

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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the e-ARC of this book.

This book is well done, and an interesting commentary on how we treat neurodivergent people, but also how we treat children's privacy rights. Publishing information about and pictures of them, at some point, they have the ability to want to control of what information is available about them, and what do we do when we've given away too much?

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I really enjoyed reading this book, it had everything that I was looking for from a thriller adventure elements and thought it worked well in the children’s fiction novel. Jen Wilde has a great writing style and the characters worked well with the universe. It uses that online elements perfectly and I enjoyed how strong the story was with that concept.

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If this book was YA, it would have easily been five stars. But it's not, it's middle grade, and herein lies the problem.

The premise of this book is fantastic. Autistic children learning that they unwillingly had chips implanted in their brains, and the data being sold to an evil corporation? An impressive montage of assembling a ragtag group of disabled kids? Accurate depictions of both autistic meltdowns AND autistic joy, with threads of queer representation interspersed? Sounds AMAZING. And much of the plot worked well, particularly the scenes of Paige and Mara finding Kelsey and Marcus.

My main issue was the fact that this was middle grade, but the dialogue and narration did not sound like it was written for or about children. Phrases such as "toxic billionaire" and "without my informed consent" are not ones an eleven year old would use. Nor would they be that salient in listing their identities. I've been fortunate to interact with a wide variety of children, both neurodivergent and neurotypical, through my various jobs. Of course, every child is unique, particularly those who are neurodivergent, but there are certain elements of communication that ring true for almost every verbalizing eleven year old.

I think that Paige could have easily been seventeen years old, and the story would have been a lot stronger. I know Jen Wilde cut their teeth in YA, so that's what they know best, but middle grade is a whole different beast. The dialogue would have made a whole lot more sense coming from a teenager, and I would have focused my review on the inventive plot. Alas, the book is middle grade, so I am reviewing and rating it as middle grade.

Thank you to NetGalley for an e-ARC in exchange for my honest review!

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What worked:
A central conflict in the story involves the concept of autism. Some people compare autism to a disease and want to cure it. Others, including Paige, understand it’s part of who they are and they learn to deal with it. It really bothers Paige when her father says he wants her to be normal. She thinks of people wanting to “cure” autism and compares it to dinosaurs going extinct. Some autistic people don’t like to touch others and bright lights and loud noises can be overwhelming. The story includes descriptions of Paige’s stimming where her mind is trying to calm her over-stimulation with involuntary movements.
The main conflict arises when Paige discovers the Dot that’s been implanted behind her ear. She’s worried and angered that people can monitor her life and control how she behaves. Nucleus is behind her surgery and Paige is frightened to learn the company is selling her information to a social media giant known for abusing customer data. The conflict boils down to big business versus individuals and it’s unlikely an autistic twelve-year-old can do anything about it. However, Paige discovers she can do the impossible when motivated as she recruits other test subjects to join her team.
The other main plot concerns Paige’s relationship with her best friend Mara. Mara is very supportive and helps Paige deal with stressful situations. Paige has problems knowing how to behave socially and she’s not sure how to handle being part of a new group of friends. She’s always had Mara to herself so sharing her with other people is hard and confusing. If Mara has new interests with new people, does that mean she’s no longer Paige’s friend? Friendships in middle grades can be fickle so readers should make connections with Paige’s issues. They’re not unique to autism.
What didn’t work as well:
The author includes a subplot where Paige struggles with her gender identity but it probably wasn’t necessary. The conflict with Nucleus, Paige’s struggles with autism, and the complications of friendship were enough to keep readers’ attention. There’s nothing wrong with including the question of gender identity but maybe it should have been a bigger part of the story. It almost gets lost among the other problems until the very end of the book.
The final verdict:
Young people battling with large corporations always result in a dramatic story. Paige’s autism provides a novel complication but her determination to maintain her identity makes her an admirable heroine. Overall, the author creates a fresh conflict with an underdog protagonist and I recommend you give this book a shot.

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This was a DNF for me. As much as I liked the plot, characters, and ideas presented in this book, this book felt like it was trying to appeal to every minority audience possible. I don't mind having autistic, gay, and other minority characters in books, in fact, I support it, and I loved that this book was helping to positively spread autism awareness. However, in this book, the writing comes off as trying to make Paige seem like as much of a victim as possible, and really plays up the 'differences' that make her a victim to everyone else in society. This book could have been a roaring success with its plot and character approach, however, the terrible writing completely ruined this one for me.

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Cancelling noise headphones? Yes, please. I feel like Paige understands me so well. She is a great character and an honest representation of a girl who just wants to be herself even if it means to be neuro divergence like me.

Her friend is a true friend and I wish I had one as empathic and understanding as Mara. Plus, she is clever, a quick thinker, and very brave.

The story is a very creative and clever thriller/conspiracy vibe for kids and it's exciting. Paige discovers that she did not remove her tonsils when she was younger, instead, she was part of an experiment that puts a divide in the brain to control, analyze data, and regularize her moods (without her permission) a very contemporary issue that can lead to a lot of great discussions.

Done in a fun way it addresses many issues in our society as a community but also as a family.
Well done.

Thank you publisher and Netgalley for this digital-arc

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Paige is a young, autistic girl who's life is turned upside down when she finds out that she as an implant (the Dot) in her brain that is affecting her moods and emotions. She also discovers that the information obtained by her Dot is about to be sold to a company with no regard for privacy. Paige and her best friend Mara set out to find all the other Dot users in New York and try to stop the sale.

I thought this was an interesting look into the mind of a child with autism. It was very humanizing. I wasn't too much of a fan since I felt the story was a bit to pat. I did like the role her parents take at the end.

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This book was so cool! I really enjoyed seeing Paige and the other character's experiences with autism, this book is great for teaching what is important to be an ally. And I LOVED the ending, that was perfect! And I thought the story and idea was really creative (in an awesome way)!

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