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Pub Date Feb 02 2021 | Archive Date Feb 16 2021

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Inspired by a true story.

My name is Charity. I am thirteen years old. Actually, thirteen years plus eighty-seven days. I love sour gummies and pepperoni pizza. That last part no one knows because I have not spoken a sentence since I was born. Each dawning day, I live in terror of my unpredictable body that no one understands.
Charity may have mad math skills and a near-perfect memory, but with a mouth that can’t speak and a body that jumps, rocks, and howls unpredictably, most people incorrectly assume she cannot learn. Charity’s brain works differently from most people’s because of her autism, but she’s still funny, determined, and kind. So why do people treat her like a disease or ignore her like she’s invisible?
When Charity’s parents enroll her in a public junior high school, she faces her greatest fears. Will kids make fun of her? Will her behavior get her kicked out? Will her million thoughts stay locked in her head forever? With the support of teachers and newfound friends, Charity will have to fight to be treated like a real student. 
Inspired by a true story, Real speaks to all those who’ve ever felt they didn’t belong and reminds readers that all people are worthy of being included.  


Inspired by a true story.

My name is Charity. I am thirteen years old. Actually, thirteen years plus eighty-seven days. I love sour gummies and pepperoni pizza. That last part no one knows because I...

Advance Praise

A Junior Library Guild Gold Selection 

A Junior Library Guild Gold Selection 

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ISBN 9781629727899
PRICE $16.99 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

This book was so sad and hopeful. It talks about a girl with autism and how she lives with her daily struggles while facing hate from the people around her. We learn how hard it can be if you have autism and how one day can feel like one big struggle. I definitely recommend this book to you. It's a good read for people ages 11-14.

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I just finished reading Real by Carol Cujec and Peyton Goddard. This book is authentic, honest and based on the life experiences of Peyton Goddard who has been diagnosed with nonverbal Autism. This book exudes passion, brutal honesty and let's the reader experience the obstacles Charity must face for acceptance in the real world. Diagnosed as Autistic, Charity is nonverbal and has no motor control over her body. She has been placed in an "Academy" for low functioning individuals. However, though Charity can't communicate verbally, she is extremely bright and the reader experiences her frustration as she witnesses the world from a different perspective. Much like Sharon Draper's Out of My Mind, the reader journeys with Charity and roots for her to be accepted and acknowledged as a contributing member of society.
This book is perfect for today and teaches diversity, acceptance, self -love and determination. The authors write honestly and vividly. Middle grade readers will learn about acceptance as well as the characters struggle with autism. A must have for any library or classroom collection!

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#netgalley #real

This book shows the Real feelings from an autistic point of view. It's eye opening and a game changer for how we can start to understand how autistic children feel. The mystery will always be there, but this helps to bridge the gap.

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Wow. I’m actually speechless. Wow.

It’s rare that you find a book that treats autistic kids (especially nonverbal autistic kids) like people. This book excels in that category 100%.

I loved that it was inside Charity’s head and that we got to see her thought processes and I truly loved this book.

Absolutely one of my favorite reads of 2020.

Perfect for fans of R.J. Palacio’s WONDER and Wesley King’s SARA AND THE SEARCH FOR NORMAL.

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This was a fascinating story with a look at autism and other handicaps through the eyes of the autistic person. My heart rose and fell along with Charity. There were some characters I actually wanted to slap in the face. It's rare a story can really make me feel that so strongly.

This story has a happier ending than many. When a person can't communicate, other people often assume they don't understand what's going on around them. That's not always true—and this story was a great way to show how it could be. I could tell it was well researched. The writing was excellent.

Recommend it to older middle grade through adult readers.

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Real should be required reading for teachers, teachers in training, students, parents...basically everyone. This book opened my eyes and taught me so much about others and about myself. I cried, I laughed, I cringed, I cursed. What a beautiful testament to the human spirit.

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"Real" was a beautiful, moving book.

When I first read the first lines of the summary, it strongly reminded me of one of my very favourite books, "Out of my mind", where the main character is tetraplegic due to a neurological disease. Here, our heroine has low-functioning autism, which is very different but similar in the way that it causes her to not be able to use her body in a way she would like, and therefore not be able to communicate... Because of this, she is taken advantage of by unscrupulous people and dismissed by members of her own family. Both situation are extremely sad and inexcusable, but it makes us understand better why some people react as they do with disabled people, and how one can complete misunderstand someone who is not able to communicate. I think this book teaches us first and foremost to be open-minded, not to jump to any conclusion about other people, and to be patient with differently-abled people, who can be just as kind, smart, funny as any other person if we take time to discover their personality.

Charity is a bright kid with likes and dislikes, the desire to be included, have friends, be understood and spoken to any other person. But she cannot control her body enough to communicate for the first thirteen years of her life - except to a certain extent with her wonderful parents who understand her quite well. Image being caged in your own body!

When Charity finds a way to communicate, with a special keyboard, her whole world changes, and she is at last considered as a "full" person in the eyes of her community. It was very moving to see how such a small thing: a keyboard, and someone who help her type, could change her life so throughly. Like Charity, we can only hope that all those unable to communicate will meet people kind and patient enough to find a way to let them hear their voice.

Would absolutely recommend this wonderful book (inspired by a true story) to anyone and everyone!

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Imagine if your body does not cooperate and your mouth cannot speak? How do you communicate? Based on a real story, Real is quite possibly the best book I've read this fall. This story just kept breaking my heart, but Charity prevails.

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I’m not sure I’ll be able to write an actual review of this book without it turning into a gush fest. I loved everything about this book. It is SO good. It does an amazing job of getting the reader into the head of a non-verbal autistic teenage girl and helps you really feel along with her. This is due to the fact that this is inspired by the life of one of the co-authors. It is both heart-wrenching and triumphant with a unique and distinct voice and a message of paramount importance. I will gladly recommend this to any and all.

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#Real #NetGalley

This book was so tender and touching, based on a true story. Charity is thirteen years old, but she isn't a typical teenager, she can't talk and her body doesn't always do what she wants it to. Charity is autistic, she has thoughts and feelings, just like everyone one else. She can't tell her parents how she is treated by teachers at the school she goes to, a school she has been at for three years. Then circumstances change, and Charity is given a chance to go to a regular junior high school , a school with teachers that care and understand her. But will she lose her chances because of things her body can't control? This book needs to be read and shared far and wide.

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This book was received as an ARC from Shadow Mountain Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own.

Wow, the feeling of shock throughout my body, awareness of non verbal autism, and the diversity shown in this book really captivated me. Hearing this story of Charity and her struggle with non verbal autism not only brings awareness to me professionally as a librarian but personally as someone who knows a friend who is autistic and now is more aware of the struggles he goes through. Despite the struggle of Charity, she also is a real inspiration to anyone who reads this book whether or not they have a personal connection with autism or want to learn more about it. Every library, school and institution must have this book in their collection and in my personal opinion, should be on summer reading lists or a curriculum requirement.

We will consider adding this title to our JFiction collection at our library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.

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I knew nothing about Peyton Goddard, the inspiration for this children’s fiction offering ( ages 8-11) before reading Real, but I have since learned she is a young woman diagnosed as autistic due to her inability to speak or control her body. What was not known was that inside this prison was a brilliant mind. At age 22 she was given the chance to communicate by typing and within a few years she graduated from college as valedictorian. She and her mother chronicled her struggle in a memoir published in 2012. Real takes this story and adapts it for a young audience. The narrator is Charity a 12 year old representing Peyton herself. The setting is the isolated world of a young girl who knows she is capable of so much more.
The decision to adapt the story so Charity finds salvation so much younger than Peyton actually did, is a good choice. Readers can experience her struggles in a setting much like their own school and family and they can develop empathy as they see the shocking mistreatment she and other disabled children experienced as well as the amazing love and support provided by her family.
This book will be disturbing to children who put great stock in fairness but it is ultimately so uplifting that young readers will see for themselves the importance of valuing every individual. Although the suggested audience is preteen, the writing does not condescend and I read every page with interest and enjoyment. Three cheers to Authors Peyton Goddard and Carol Cujek.

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I shall be honest to say that at first, i was very VERY unsure i`d even like this book. It sounded interesting by the blurb, but i wasn`t sure it was something i`d like anyhow. Boy was i wrong, i was so moved it hurt. I felt so many emotions through the book, with Charity. I smiled, i cried, i felt an ache in my chest and stomach for the unfairness and how Charity struggled...but i also felt so much joy when she was heard and seen as a real person not as an object, a thing and a word i really really hate: retard. She grew, found her voice and found friends who supported her and loved her for who she was. I also adored how her parents never gave up on her, that was really beautiful.

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This book totally as what the title are. Even though it was inspired by true story, the story been told and written beautifully.

I can feel what Charity have to go through. 😭😭. The story that the people , the community and her surrounding can’t accept or being harsh on how she is different from others. She never asked to be different . She wish people should learn to know a person like her . They should send love and treat her like other people that so called “perfect”.

Person like Charity also a human being . She is intelligent but people think that she is incapable.

I love this book. It gives awareness what is autism . How an autism person / child action or character or react . The book also share about parenting . I totally take note on how Charity parent really know how to calm down Charity whenever she’s done something that other people don’t understand.

I love the last afterword part :
“ She would like all readers to understand the value of friendship, especially for kids who are different. To have friends is the most important thing for all people. Without friends, a person cannot have fun. It is hard to live. There is no joy, just sadness. I have felt this, because I look different and I am labeled autistic. I cannot always control my body. It does not do what my mind tells it. My face cannot show my feelings. For most of my life, I had to speak through behaviors and most people misunderstood. I need help to do most things. But I can open my heart. Can you? “ . It shed me tears when read it . 😭

Seriously , if this book available in physical copy . I really wish the author could send to me as I want to hold this gem physically.

This story taught us to have knowledge about autism before judge . Please be kind to everyone even the person is different. Please treat people with love not hatred.

Thanks Netgalley for the e-ARC . ❤️

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If I only have two words to describe this book, I would use: Powerful and Impactful.

Real is based on a true story, about a thirteen year old girl who has Autism. With no voice of her own and no control of her body, she sets out on a mission to be heard and make sure the voices of children like her be heard too. Her family and new friends alongside her, Charity tells her story. Starting from when she attended her aunt's wedding, then her days at Borden - where she and her classmates gets mistreated and abused daily, to her journey at a new school filled with support and unfortunately bullying too.

This book makes you think more about what other people are going through and books like this needs to be shared and recommended more. If people know that people with a disability - whatever it is: Down Syndrome, Autism, ADHD, etc. are people just like them too, maybe it would make life easier for everyone.

It doesn't mean that a person who in this case, a girl with Autism is stupid. In fact, Charity debunked this rumor once she started using a tablet to talk, with her first sentence being "I am Intelligent". Not only did she overcome what people where saying about her and how they treated her but also showed them that she was a genius at school, a great basketball player and an intellectual person.

This book took me on an emotional ride, from happy, to sad, angry and frustrated, to being proud.

This is by far my favourite book I've read this year and I will forever cherish it. I highly recommend this, it is a great way to open your mind!

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Can I just say "WOW!"? This book was based on a true story, and one of the authors is who the true story was about! This book had a lot of echoes of [book:Out of My Mind|6609765] which I already really loved, but this one had even more purpose! Charity, a low-functioning autistic girl has been through SO much in her life, including abuse in a school that was supposed to provide loving educational opportunities, and when her mother discovers what has been going on there, she pulls her out immediately and arranges (with much difficulty) to get her into a regular public school with an amazing SpEd department. It is there that she finds her voice, and ultimately her mission in life. She goes through MUCH more there, suffering cyberbullying, mocking, and general non-acceptance, but she also finds a voice and a support system that provides her with a momentum in life that will take her all the way. I could hardly put the book down! Maybe my favorite read this year. Just WOW. I think every educator should read this book, and this librarian will be recommending it to a lot of students as well!

I received a prerelease version from NetGalley for an honest review. #Real #NetGalley

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I received an electronic ARC from Shadow Mountain Publishing through NetGalley.
Powerful story told by an Own Voices author. Readers see the world through Charity's eyes and experiences. She is diagnosed as low-functioning autistic. Since she has no voice, she is regarded as unable to learn or unintelligent. Her struggles to be recognized come through clearly. I felt anger at several of the people in this young girl's life - extended family members, educators. It was appalling to see their actions through the protagonist's eyes. Highly recommend this book for those who work with differently abled students.

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Wow. Have some tissues handy. And cancel all of your other plans, because you won't want to put this book down until you finish it. At least that's what happened with me, anyway.
What a captivating, heartbreaking, heartwarming, all of the emotions rolled in to one story. There was such a contrast between how Charity's parents treated her, and how most other people treated her, especially at first. I LOVED her dad. He was amazing and such an example on how to treat people who have differences.
This story shows how people can change and continually learn - and I'm not referring to Charity here, although she did do both. I'm referring to her peers and teachers, who were given that chance to change as well.
This is a book that everyone should read.

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My Rating: 5 Stars


Charity is 13 years old, loves strawberry milkshakes, learning new facts about animals, and hanging out with her dad and grandpa. She also cannot control her body, cannot speak, and, although people on the outside don't realize it, she cannot stand that she receives constant judgment and pity from everyone around her. She wants to be seen as the real person that she is. When she enrolls in public school, she must choose to either be defeated by the judgement of peers and faculty, or persevere to show them how she, despite her physical challenges, is real--just like them.

Wow. Wow! This book was incredible. It's a short read, but it conveys a powerful message! I found myself re-evaluating how I interact with people who are physically and neurologically different from me. Charity has so much soul, and yet people assume that she is mentally inferior and incapable of learning because, despite all her efforts and willpower, she is unable to control her body. This book brings so much to light about what people with neurological or physical challenges are dealt by other people. Pity, neglect, lack of respect, embarrassment, even abuse. It also highlights how simple kindness and just trying to understand can literally make all the difference, especially when backed by the support of loving family and a few good friends.

I highly recommend this book. I wish I had read this book when I was a teenager myself, because I think it would have changed the way I saw people. I would recommend this book for upper elementary through middle school students, although it would benefit everyone of every age to read this book or understand its message: everyone deserves to have opportunities to learn and to be included, even if they are different.

Content guide:

Sex & Affection: A girl and a boy hold hands, tokens of affection exchanged between family members (i.e. hugs, kisses on the cheek, handshakes, etc.)

Language: One character says "h**l," insults and unkind remarks are directed toward a character.

Drugs, Alcohol, and Substance Use: Coffee is consumed.

Crime & Violence: Children experience abuse or neglect at the hands of their educators, cyber bullying is directed toward a character.

I received a free ARC from the publisher. All opinions are entirely my own.

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This book compels you to keep reading without taking breaks and when you read the last page, it stays with you. There are so many good life lessons in this book that your brain will ponder over for a long time. This is fitting because the book is about autism and the inner workings of the brain. Charity is the protagonist and she is defined by doctors (the Thinkers as they are referred to) as a non-verbal girl with low-functioning autism. She attends one public school as a very young child and then a private school. When she is expelled from the private school, the Thinkers want to put her in an institution but by a miracle she is enrolled in a special program at Jefferson Middle School.

It is a beautiful story about Charity learning how to be verbal through typing and overcoming her out-of-control body. She shows how she is more than than her physical limitations. Even more, the story tells about all the relationships she develops with people and how those relationships impact her and others. From her parents, her grandparents, her aunt and cousin to the teachers and other students at school, Charity develops and grows in her relationships. Some relationships are not good at all and some relationships are healed. It makes you realize the impact you have on others and how others impact you. This is what stays with you long after you finish reading the last page.

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Real is a book that I always wanted. Not to get too personal, but I am on the Spectrum with NLD (Nonverbal Learning Disorder). A therapist told me that it is like Autism and Aspergers (more on the Aspergers side) put together. Charity and I have variations of differences (i.e. experiences, characteristics. ) _ I was horrible at math (for example) _ I felt so connected to her. It is so wonderful to see a book bring representation and the authentic emotion of what it is like to feel different, an outsider, to others. The book itself is beautifully hopefully. I wish I had this book when I was younger, but I am so glad that people like Charity and Me could recognize themselves with such sensitivity and warmth. Plus, I feel like kids and families alike would get a better understanding of how people are different and that's perfectly okay. More than okay. As you could see, I really loved the book.
Big thanks to NetGalley and Shadow Mountain for this book for my Honest Review.

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An amazing story.
This book tells us a very moving story, the story of Charity, a thirteen year old girl who suffers from autism. She is super smart, but because of her problem, she cannot show the world all she can do. Everyone thinks she doesn't understand, that her mind is useless, but they have no idea how much she can do.
The truth is that there are few books that deal with mental health and disorders. And the fact that this story tells us this, and even more so that it is based on a true story, brings us closer to the idea of all that these people go through because they are the way they are.
It was a book that I enjoyed very much. The truth is that Charity's story left me super moved, all that she had to go through. It gave me a lot of courage every time she was treated like a baby or a creature incapable of reasoning.
It is quite an experience reading this book. The way it is written catches you and makes you connect more and more with Charity.
It's a book that's worth reading, so that we can become a little more aware and begin to put ourselves in the shoes of these people, to try to understand them, not to push them aside.
I highly recommend that you give this book a chance.

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As an educator and one-time inclusion teacher, I have had first-hand experiences with children like Charity. I have always felt that many of these children were "locked", for lack of a better word, in a body that would not cooperate with their mind. Reading Real only solidified that thought. The fact that it was based on a true story solidified it even more. Seeing the world through Charity's eyes was often heartbreaking at times, but as the story progressed, that feeling changed to triumph. I feel that anybody thinking of going into education, whether you choose to specialize in Special Education or not, should read this story. I feel that the story is also appropriate for upper elementary through high school students. Putting yourself in someone else's shoes is one of the benefits of reading a variety of stories. This book can help us deepen our understandings of those who may not have the ability to speak to us in traditional ways. We just have to learn how to listen.

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Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher, I was given a galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wow. Wow. Wow, I just finished this book moments ago. It’s 4:45 AM. I got up early because I couldn’t sleep because I wanted to finish the book. Imagine being brilliant but trapped in your body, like Charity was. Imagine finally having a way to communicate and going to a public high school. Dealing with the nerds and the jocks and the mean girls. You are autistic. You can’t make your body do what you need it to do. That’s what this book is about.

It written in the first person. It is fantastic. I always wondered if my mom, who lost most of her ability to speak and move after a series of strokes, was stuck inside herself. If she’s anything like Charity, the answer is yes. The book is so well written, so convincing, I wondered how the authors could do it. How did they know? They knew because it was based on Peyton Goddard’s life! And now I want to meet her. What a outstanding book. It is a great way to teach kids about empathy. I love this book. If this book were a man, my husband would be in trouble!

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Charity is 13 years old, she likes pizza, strawberry shakes, music, swimming, and puzzles. She is highly intelligent and has an almost perfect memory, but no one knows that because she has never spoken.
Her mom picks out her outfits, which are usually an all pink mess that Charity despises. She goes to a 'school' for mentally handicapped children where abuse happens, she gets shut in the 'time-out' closet at least once a week for hours at a time. All of that changes one day when Charity's mom stops by the school unannounced and see's all the ridiculous things happening there. She is then on a quest to have Charity attend an actual school that will support her learning.
Charity is accepted into a regular middle school, where she has a wonderful aide that helps her with motor skills, meditation to help her control her body, and she finds friends who don't care that she can't talk. She slowly finds her place in school and with her peers and thoroughly enjoys learning. When she is finally given the means to communicate for herself, she is beyond happy, but still unfulfilled. She realizes that she needs to be the voice for others like her who can't express themselves verbally.
Real by Carol Cujec and Peyton Goddard was a tear-jerker. I loved that the viewpoint of the story is Charity's and that we can hear her 'voice'. It made me wonder how many times I may have treated someone in Charity's shoes differently. This would be a phenomenal book for a discussion group, a classroom, or for a parent and children. It starts a conversation that should be happening regularly, but most likely isn't.

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I received a copy of this book from the publishers and to read and review.

Charity thinks of herself as a charity case. Trapped inside a body that doesn't listen and unable to speak, she is often seen as a hopeless case. But Charity isn't hopeless, and she's brilliant, she simply has autism. Based on Peyton Goddard's own struggles and successes, Charity's story is filled with laughter and tears and ultimately it leaves you with open eyes and a real sense of hope.

There are depictions of abusive behavior from a school Charity attends which are hard to read, but knowing those things happen in institutional settings makes it an important part if the story. There is also bullying shown, so if you are particularly sensitive, you should prepare yourself.

I often find it hard to rate things based on true stories, but this one was engrossing and important, so I ranked it as high as possible. If you are at all interested in the subjects presented, I encourage you to read it when it is published!

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Everyone who thinks Autistic children and adults are dumb or "retarded" needs to read this book. This book shows what's it like to live locked in your own body with out being able to communicate, the struggles of living with a disability, and the joy of finally being seen as a person.

This book does put you through the ringer of emotions, so if you are a crier, have some tissues ready. Learning how Charity is treated at school will make you angry, and then you'll cry right along with her mom when she finds out what's going on. You'll want to yell at her aunt along with her mom. When she finally communicates you'll want to cheer and cry at the same time. With every accomplishment and set back you will feel for Charity.

While the main character is Autistic, she has friends with Down's Syndrome, one who uses a wheel chair, and other disabilities. I'm not sure if Jazzmine as supposed to have Cerebral Palsy or Muscular Dystrophy, but either are possible. A classmate also uses assistive type and is possibly Autistic, and another has an unspecified developmental disorder.

Excellent representation, relatable story about bullying and making friends, an overcoming obstacles makes this a Five Lightsaber review.

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I received a copy of the book from Netgalley to review. Thank you for the opportunity.
Wow this book is a good one as well as important. I loved the MC, she was so real, relatable and lovable at the same time. This book challenges preconceptions and predujudices well without taking down to readers. The writing is well done and the story deals with some important topics.
A good read.

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Inspired by a true story, this book takes us on a journey of an autistic, non-verbal teenage girl's life through her mind. Her mind is her voice - a voice that is desperate to communicate with others. What I love most about Charity is the unconditional love and support she has from her mother and father. They are her advocates who encourage and cheer her on, even when she wants to give up. It's heartbreaking to see Charity dealing with the bullies at school, when all she wants to do is fit in and make friends. She also has family members who are uncomfortable being around her and don't know what to do or how to act. But through her daily struggles she pushes forward, battling each obstacle as best she can. With the help of teachers and new friends, she's finally able to learn to speak through a tablet. Her voice can finally be heard. And people are listening.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand autism better. And who better to understand it than from someone who lives with it every day. As a mother to an 8 year old autistic son, I will always worry about how others see him or if they treat him differently. My fear is that I can't always protect him from the bullies or people whispering behind their back. But I will forever be his advocate and I will let him know every day how very much loved he is. Charity is a strong, courageous girl who is making a difference in the world by being the voice for others who can't speak. Hopefully others who read this book can understand and learn not to judge a book by its cover.

Thank you Netgalley and Shadow Mountain Publishing for the opportunity to read this book.

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An excellent example of neurodiverse fiction in the middle grade sphere. Great characters, great goals, really easy for kids to understand. Would love to have this one in middle school classroom!

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Real is a well-done view into the life of a young teen with autism. It is heartfelt and heartbreaking and as one who has an autistic brother, it rings so very true. I love the depth of Charity and her wonderfully supportive parents. There is so much to love here.

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Charity Wood is 13 years old. She has been labeled to be “low-functioning Autistic “ as among other characteristics, she cannot talk. Her mind and body don’t connect. It makes life difficult when you can’t be sure your body will obey what you tell it to do. She goes to a special school where she is suppose to be educated but is not. When her parents find out how Charity is treated, she is taken out of the school. Her mother is determined to get Charity into the local public school. The Special Ed teacher “interviews” Charity and says yes, she can go to school. In the junior high school, she ends up eating lunch with other kids with different disabilities yet similar. As Charity goes to school, she learns to communicate by using a keyboard. She becomes accepted by her classmates except for the bullies. Will she be able to deal with the bullies? When accused of plagiarism, will Charity be able to stay in school or not?

The authors wrote this novel jointly as it is based on the author Peyton Goddard’s life. It shows the problems that kids like Charity experience. I enjoyed reading this book as questions that I had were answered. Charity’s path goes beyond finding her voice but also letting otherwise ers know that all kids should have an education. Behind this inspiring book, there are also several different themes such as friendship, bullying, self acceptance and civil rights.

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Real is inspired by the real life story of Peyton Goddard, who co-wrote this book. In the book, the main character, Charity, was labeled as low functioning as a child and was placed in a special education school where the staff treated the students horribly. Her mother fought to get her admitted back into her public school, where she was surrounded by supportive staff who gave her her voice by teaching her how to type to communicate. It was not always easy, as she struggled to control her body and had to deal with other students and their families that were not as accepting of her.

This book needs to be put into the hands of every single person who works in education. It is such an important message to presume competence with all students, no matter what. As a certified occupational therapy assistant who has worked with people of all ages and abilities across many settings, I really wish I had this book when I was first starting out my career. As I read this, I thought about specific children I worked with, and how I would do things differently knowing what I know now.

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Brief Review:

Because thirteen-year-old Charity Wood doesn’t talk and has limited motor skills, everyone assumes that she is mentally challenged. But when her parents discover the abusive conditions at Charity’s special needs school and enroll her in public school, she quickly learns new ways to communicate. With the help of the special needs coordinator and an aide, Charity suddenly starts to type. Many of the people who have doubted her, including family members, the principal, the basketball coach, and numerous fellow students all learn that she is intelligent and articulate. But a few students and parents don’t welcome Charity to the public school. Someone keeps posting hurtful comments on an anonymous gossip app, and eventually, people start questioning whether Charity is really typing for herself. Charity must defend herself not only against stereotypes but also against specific accusations of plagiarism. Inspired by the real-life experiences of one of the book’s two authors, this story explains the importance of respecting everyone, including people with disabilities, and not underestimating someone’s intelligence or potential based upon their limitations. Unfortunately, despite the book’s important message and (eventually) uplifting tone, the plot and characters simply aren’t interesting enough to appeal to a wide audience.

Long Review:

Thirteen-year-old Charity Wood doesn’t talk. No one knows that she loves sour gummies and pepperoni pizza or that she hates oatmeal and the pink dresses her mother makes her wear. No one except her parents truly believes that she is intelligent and knows how to read and do junior-high-level math. And even her family has no idea that she suffers from neglect and abuse at Borden Academy, the school that is supposed to accommodate and support her special needs. But then one day her mother goes into Borden to try to meet with a teacher and observes the unsatisfactory conditions that have always been covered up on Parents Day. She immediately pulls Charity out of Borden Academy and starts the process of getting her admitted to public school.

The principal, Mr. Jergen, is skeptical of Charity’s ability to function and participate in the public school curriculum given her limited motor skills and the fact that she’s nonverbal. But the special needs coordinator, who introduces herself as Celia, quickly realizes that Charity is much more intelligent than any doctor or educator has realized in the past. In fact, under the guidance of Celia and an aide named Ana, Charity quickly learns how to type. She suddenly is able to communicate with her family, her new friends, and her teachers. She excels in academics, makes friends, and even joins the basketball team.

But not everyone welcomes Charity to public school. The majority of the popular-girl clique takes a dislike to her, with the possible exception of Grace, who was Charity’s friend when they were little. And someone keeps saying hurtful things on an anonymous gossip app. Later, when Ana has to take time off unexpectedly for a family emergency, Charity is given a substitute aide who types her own words with Charity’s keyboard, raising questions about whether Charity was really communicating on her own in the first place. After Charity submits a research paper about the negative environment at Borden Academy, she is even accused of plagiarism.

Inspired by the real-life experiences of one of the book’s two authors, this story explains the importance of respecting everyone, including people with disabilities, and not underestimating someone’s intelligence or potential based upon their limitations. The message is important and the eventual outcome of Charity’s story is positive, but the book unfortunately lacks the appeal factors to reach a wide audience, especially not within the 8-11 age range for which retailers recommend it. The story isn’t exciting or humorous, few of the characters are well-developed or likable, and much of the plot revolves around the adult-oriented topic of best practices in special needs education.

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First, I have to say how excited I was to read Real once I found out it was #OwnVoices. I know there are social media movements calling for more books by #ActuallyAutistic authors, so I really appreciated reading this book. Peyton Goddard is an inclusion advocate who had a similar experience to Charity.

I think Real is a lovely story that a lot of kids could benefit from or appreciate. The authors make it clear that children, especially children with disabilities, are vulnerable and deserving of advocacy and the stage to advocate for themselves. I loved how Charity drew inspiration from the Civil Rights movement and the chapter that detailed music therapy and other techniques Charity, her teachers, and her parents used. While scenes of abuse at Charity's old school, Borden, were heart-breaking, this does happen and kids should be aware of it, or might see this book as a mirror for their own unjust experiences. Finally, this book shows that adults can be bullies too.

On the other hand, I did find a lot of this book to be unrealistic. As a former teacher, I know Charity would have an IEP that her teachers at her new school would have to honor, whether they felt like it or not. Also, the final trial scene would never happen in real life. Students' privacy is very important. I also felt like some of the portrayals of women, especially cheerleaders, were bordering on misogynistic.

Overall, this was a heartwarming and empowering read, and I am thankful for the chance from NetGalley, the authors, and the publishers to read it. I rate it 3 stars.

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4 stars ⭐

The world needs more stories like this one, it really does. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had the displeasure of hearing the word “autistic” used as an insult. It’s such an outdated, ignorant and disgusting way to think that I feel embarrassed to know people like this. And not just that, people on the autism spectrum deserve to see themselves in stories just like everyone else, especially children and teens.

✦ ✧ ✦ ✧

Charity is a thirteen-year-old girl who is highly skilled at math and has a near-perfect memory. She likes gummy bears, pepperoni pizza and hates the pink clothes her mother insists on making her wear. But no one knows any of this because she has never spoken before.

After discovering the abuse she has been suffering at her special needs school, Charity’s parents decide enroll her in a public junior high school. However, Charity is afraid because she’s not sure how other kids will act towards her. Will they accept her and see her for who she is? Or will they make fun of her and continue to be blinded by their prejudice?

✦ ✧ ✦ ✧

Charity is a great main character. She’s not only kind, clever and determined, but also sarcastic and funny. I think it’s virtually impossible to not like her, especially because you can really empathise with what she’s going through. There are so many injustices that she has to deal with and the fact that she perseveres regardless is very admiring.

Her family and her school friends are a great support system. I loved that her parents are so understanding and encouraging. Her grandparents have such a heart of gold that they even made me miss mine. Charity’s friends and her educator are so caring and I was so happy to see her around people who didn’t need her to prove herself to accept her.

However, not everything is sunshine and rainbows. Charity’s old school “teacher”, if you can call her that, really irked me. She was such a horrible person that I just wanted to scream at her every time she was on page. The abuse that Charity and her other classmates had to endure at the hands of that woman is baffling. What truly makes it worse is that I know similar situations to this one exist all over the world and yet many times nothing is done to stop them in the cases that they are known.

Something else that got on my nerves is the ignorance of so many characters in this book, including people of Charity’s extended family. Although they end up changing their tune later in the story, their actions and words are still inexcusable in my opinion. I genuinely do not understand how they can talk in front of Charity like she isn't even there and call her the r-word. It’s such awful and downright cruel behaviour.

After reading one particular review (linked below), I feel that I should point out that there are some things that were almost a bit performative and unnecessarily put Charity and one of her friends on a pedestal. What I mean by this is that it is almost like this book is trying to say that disabled and neurodivergent individuals need to prove their worth somehow or should only be accepted if they can contribute to society in the same way neurotypical people do. I am sure this was not the authors’ intentions considering this a ownvoices novel, however this does not stop it from potentially perpetuating a harmful message.

I also didn’t like how easily some ableist characters were left off the hook. That definitely left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

Overall, Real is an amazing, poignant story that deserves all the hype it’s not receiving. I would recommend it to both younger and older readers and I hope it encourages people to expand their horizons and interact with others who can relate to Charity’s experiences.

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Wow wow wow!

What an explosion of emotions.
I have never read anything like it before and the fact that the author consulted an own voices person (who has by the way written a memoir I will certainly look into) is noteworthy and certainly contributed to the representation that is much needed for the community.

We follow a teenage girl whose condition makes her unable to speak. She cannot show in any way or form that she understands the world around her let alone show who she really is. Despite having supportive parents (which was very refreshing to see mother-daughter and father-daughter relationships that were healthy and wholesome) her life has been far from easy.

I laughed, I cried, it was a rollercoaster and I definitely was up for the ride.
A true gem which I recommend for both teens and adults. I hope my daughter will read this someday as well.

Thank you Netgalley for the eArc in exchange for an honest review.

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“I AM INTELLIGENT” -the most powerful words I have read in a book in a long time. I cried, laughed, and felt anger all during this book. This should be a must-read book for all middle school students.
All too often in education we look at students and make judgements. This book shows the horrible things that not only students do to those that are different, but also what adults will do.
There are so many emotions running through me after reading this book. I highly recommend it!

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Wow!! That was my feeling during and after reading this powerful story.

Charity is thirteen years old and nonverbal. Her body is not her own to control and it is really frustrating. Because she cannot speak with words or through her body, all but her parents have assumed she is not intelligent and more like a little child. But inside she is screaming to be heard. While her parents have never treated her any less than perfect, they unknowingly placed her in a school that did nothing to challenge her intelligence and was actually abusive.

When given the opportunity to enter mainstream school, it is a great risk, as her body often goes out of control and she is a big distraction. But the teachers she is blessed with can see more in Charity than anyone else. Through time and trial, they find a way for her to be heard and she is ready to speak! When everyone learns just how intelligent she is, she is given the scary opportunity to speak for others like her.

To make this even better, it's based on a true story. It's a great reminder that even though we don't look or act like "normal" people, it does not make us any less. I think this would be a great read for middle school kids- a time when bullying is so rampant and maybe this could a good eye-opener. Very well written!

Thanks to NetGalley and Shadow Mountain for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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First sentence: My name is Charity. I am thirteen years old plus eighty-seven days. I love sour gummies and pepperoni pizza. That last part no one knows because I have not spoken a sentence since I was born. Each dawning day, I live in terror of my unpredictable body that no one understands.

Premise/plot: Charity Wood, our heroine, is a low-functioning autistic. Many--though not her parents--have written Charity off completely. The "school" she attends would be a joke--but abuse is no laughing matter. But Charity is given a chance, an opportunity to attend public school--to attend regular classes. With the help of an aide and an ipad, Charity may just find her voice after all.

My thoughts: I have high hopes for Real. I do. I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to see it win all the awards. Real has all the feels a reader could possibly want. And perhaps a few that readers don't necessarily want but actually need. I teared up at least three or four times while reading Real. It was just THAT good.

The message is simple EVERYONE deserves a chance to learn. EVERYONE deserves to be treated with respect, kindness, dignity. No one should ever be written off and dismissed. Everyone has value and worth.

I loved the characters. I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the parents. I loved Celia and Ana--two teachers/aides that believed in Charity from the start. I loved the realness of the relationships.

I loved the writing and the story. It was beautiful and wonderful.

"Steve, Charity has something to tell you." He took in the scene, and focused on the keyboard in our lap. Mom pressed a button, and it played my prepared message. DAD, YOU ARE MY BEST FRIEND. THANK YOU FOR BELIEVING IN ME. He looked confused. Then Mom held my right elbow as I typed the final line. I LOVE YOU. (133)


In class next day, Jazmine, Peter, Julian, Skyler and the other EPIC kids crowded around to "hear" me talk with Ana supporting me. Ana read my message to the group. THANK YOU FOR ACCEPTING ME EVEN BEFORE I HAD WORDS. (134)

Real is inspired by a real person--Peyton Goddard.

Is Real a novel that children would seek out on their own? Maybe. Maybe not. Might it be the kind of book that adults love more than kids? Maybe. All I can say is that even if kids miss out on the awesomeness of this book--which I sincerely hope they do not--it should be a MUST READ for teachers, school staff, and administration.

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I’m so glad I read this book with my daughters. They were hooked from the first chapter and I loved the way this book showed us a new perspective and gave us deeper understanding.

The book reminds me a little of Wonder, but it’s also different. Charity has Autism that prevents her from speaking and keeps her from fully controlling her body. But she has a great team of people who care about her. When she’d given the chance to go to a public school, she learns to type on a special keyboard, and the ability to communicate changes her life. She’s on a mission to be a voice for the voiceless, but at school, she finds some people who are set against her and some people who become her friends. I highly recommend this one for young readers and for older readers too.

Thanks to Netgalley, Shadow Mountain, and the authors for a complementary digital copy.

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I'm all for books from the perspective of non-verbal characters. I do struggle with this one, though. Mostly because Charity and her peers are exceptional. They are talented artists and writers. The accidental implication is that they should be respected because of those abilities. There are also some logistical issues that I had trouble getting past.

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Awwww this was such an adorable middle grade <3333

Sorry that I'm not the best at writing reviews, but I just don't want to spoil anything.

I'll just list some things

- the cover is stunning
- I loved the MC so much ahhhh
- the whole story and plot was soooooooo good
- the writing was beautiful

5/5 stars

100% recommend!!!

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<i>Thank you NetGalley for provided me with an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.</i>

<i>Real</i> follows 13 year old Charity. She's funny, intelligent, passionate, and kind, but no one knows what she wants to say since she has never spoken for. Treated differently than other kids her age because of her autism, Charity's parents, peers, and teachers just don't seem to be listening to her. It is not until her parents discover that she is being abused at her school that they enroll her in public school, where she finally starts to get the level of education that she's been wanting.

This book is heartfelt and heavy. Charity was such a wonderful main character, whose frustration and passion was so obvious and real. I really enjoyed her narration, so much so that I read this book in one sitting. I would say that <i>Real</i> is right in between middle grade and young adult since the main character is thirteen, but I do think this book would be suitable for any age group, child through adult.

The only complaint I have was that at some points the book was a bit...too inspiring. I doubt the author's intention was to convey that autistic people have to be unfathomably intelligent and achieve great things to establish their worth--and I really don't think that was the message of the story--but there were just so many huge scenes in this book and not enough of Charity just being a kid. There are reviews of this book from autistic reviewers that explain this perspective.

Other than that, <i>Real</i> was absolutely amazing. A book hasn't made me feel so much in so long, so I am thankful that I had the opportunity to read this.

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Thanks to Shadow Mountain Publishing for the free book.
I feel like this is a book all people should read to better understand people with differing intellectual abilities. It is based on a true story. This book is about Charity, who's diagnosed with low functioning autism. She has to work so hard to earn her rights to learn. People doubt her abilities based on what they observe, not on any sort of facts. There are so many obstacles to overcome, yet there is so much perseverance in the book. I loved her attitude, exploration of feelings, and supportive parents and teachers. I felt so many emotions while reading, and I was also challenged in my thinking. I hope that this book gets into as many hands as possible because it is an important and impactful book.

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Real is a story that more people need to read, if only to improve their awareness about a usually ignored community. The book hits you with some deep emotions and leaves you with plenty of food for thought. It makes you face the truth that even the people we usually spare no second thoughts to are just as human as us.

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When reading about this book, I saw something that said "the world needs more stories like this one," and after reading the book for myself, I could not agree more. I love a good own voices story based on a true story, so this one was a pretty good fit for me. It was written beautiful and this book is just overall quite powerful and important to tell.

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Wow! Talk about insight into someone else's world! I started this a couple of days ago and picked it up to read a bit more last night and couldn't put down the last third of it.

Carol Cujec and Peyton Goddard have done an absolutely amazing job of taking you into the life of the main character of the book: Charity. Charity is autistic and is labelled as "low functioning" as a result of body control issues and her lack of ability to communicate with the people in her life, including the "Thinkers" - all the doctors that have been testing her. Charity has two amazing parents that are doing their very, very best for her. There is some family who support her parents and then some that don't understand why they "waste" all their energy communicating with her and teaching her. Little do all of these people know, but Charity is so much more capable than they realize and once the right person find a way to allow her to begin to communicate, they realize exactly what she really is capable of and it's just the beginning.

This is a beautiful story of struggle and frustration, but also hope, joy, family, perseverance, friendship and the unstoppable spirit of an amazing girl. Be ready for all the feels in this one!

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ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
I was recommended by a library staff to read Real and I'm glad I did.

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I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher through netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This book is well written and the characters are described well. This has great Mental health representation. I adored Charity, her parents, and Celia's characters in this book. It is a fictional story it reads like a nonfiction. I really like this author's writing style. I would definitely read more books by this author in the near future. This book is in stores for $16.99 (USD).

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Carol Cujec & Peyton Goddard's book Real is beautiful! This book is about a girl with Autism and her life, which is hard to find, particularly when to comes to young females being identified on the spectrum. I couldn't wait to share this one with students to help them have those windows/mirrors/sliding door experiences (Sims Bishop).

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