“When dogs or people tell you no, I think you just have to respect that…He tried it for us. He gave it a shot. He was a good sport. And he’s rejected it. So, I think we have to listen.”
WOW--I absolutely LOVED The Fire, the Water, and Maudie McGinn! I picked this up over a weekend and devoured it. It's so rare I can 100% get behind a book, but this is one that I absolutely can recommend and cheer on!
As an autistic person, I relate so much to Maudie, who feels that she's “churning in waves of too-muchness." There's a specific scene with her joking with a "not the droids you're looking for" reference that's misinterpreted and unappreciated, and I felt that in the deepest part of my being. How she describes herself as "a girl with glitches," who can't always process things right away was incredibly relatable. I also felt so, so deeply her misbelief that she needs to be clay to please others: “If you’re clay, you can mold and adapt to the new. And that’s what I always do. Mold myself into this or that kind of kid. Adapt. At school, or for Mom, for Mrs. Jills, for Ron, for the other kids at school . . . I try hard to be the right kind of Maudie for each situation, for each thing.” I guess I could spend a lot of time referencing everything I connected to, so I'll move on!
Maudie thinks little of herself, having constantly been told by her mother and step-father how incapable, challenged and "broken" she is, shaming her for her autistic mannerisms. This was so painful to read but so realistic to how many autistic folks are treated, and I really appreciated that Pla didn't hold back. The story shows how awful and traumatizing ABA therapy is, and how even well-meaning "Autism Moms" can cause more damage than good, trying to make their neurodivergent child conform to neurotypical expectations and not listening to or trying to understand their needs. The example with her mom's "autism awareness" sob story video on how difficult it is to be an Autism Mom with a "not normal child" was WAY too real. With so many awful, problematic books out there by "Autism Moms" trying to write from (and misappropriate) their autistic kid's perspective, I really appreciated how refreshing it was to see the opposite: an autistic kid pointing out how painful these inconsiderate and not-understanding parents can be. I also love that there's hope at the end, where the mom seems to become aware of the damage she's caused and seeks to change, as well as dimensionality to the mom, where we can see that she upholds "normal" standards as a sort of survival technique, probably in response to her own trauma. I would LOVE to see more critiques of ABA and problematic Autism Moms in kidlit!
While Maudie's mom and step dad are varying levels of Absolute Awful, her dad is incredibly supportive and suggested to also be neurodivergent, which was so lovely and wholesome to see. Her relationship with Etta as a surfer-mentor was also super sweet and wholesome. Seeing someone stand up for her despite the Bystander Effect was such an awesome model of how we can stand up for others that we see in troubling situations.
“Why can’t people just be decent to each other?” Maudie asks. Great question.
I really enjoyed the verse and part of me wished the whole novel was in verse. At first, the hybrid format of verse and prose was jarring to me, but with time I ended up appreciating the effect of switching between the two, and I think this is the first time I've seen this form in a novel. The chapters are short and function like prose-poems, making it easy to keep turning the pages.
Maudie is a protagonist you can't help but love and want to cheer on to succeed. I appreciate the nuance to this story, that it does a great job of showing what's awful while also modeling good responses, and distinguishing things like "tough discipline" vs abuse and hitting a limit vs not trying something new and hard. This is a fantastic book about "learning to explore [your] strengths" instead of being made to "feel bad about [your] weaknesses."An absolutely wonderful, important book for kids that don’t have a voice and may not be able to identify abuse or know how to talk about it. Fantastic for autistic and allistic readers alike.
This novel was fabulous. Maudie was such a well-rounded character and her voice felt truly authentic. The plot was at times difficult to read, but it was important and can truly cause impact to those who read it. The ending was a little too easy and perfect and felt at odds with the main bulk of the story. While I was happy to see Maudie escape, all of the money troubles and custody worries disappearing was a little much. This novel also contained multiple errors throughout the text that distracted from the main story. Otherwise, this was a great read and I plan to read it again once it's completely polished and published.
This book is about a neurodiverse girl catching her wave and learning how to ride it— with confidence and courage. Nurturing who she is despite all that’s thrown her way. A beautiful story.
The Fire, the Water, and Maudie McGinn was both heartbreaking and heartwarming. Maudie’s parents are divorced and she lives with her mother and her rich, condescending, and cruel stepfather. During her summer break with her dad, they are displaced due to a wildfire, so her dad returns to his roots on the California coast. Maudie, who is autistic, is free to be herself with her dad and grows by leaps and bounds under his care, reaching far beyond her comfort zone. She learns to trust others and herself and realizes she must face the hard truth if she wants to stay in the newfound safety she has come to love.
I really enjoyed this book. It is clean, has great themes, and is super inspiring. I am going to recommend it for our school library.
What a great book showing how Maudie, who is autistic, has the courage to speak up after being told by mom not to upset her stepdad who is abusive. When Maudie goes to stay with her dad for the summer, mom insists that Maudie keep a secret. Wildfires displace dad and Maudie, and they stay in a friend’s camper. While dad looks for work, Maudie secretly learns to surf so she can surprise her dad at the yearly Surf Bash. The day before the Surf Bash, Maudie’s mom and stepdad arrive to bring her back early. Maudie runs away that night because she has to surf. Does Maudie get to surf? Is the secret found out?