One of my top reads of 2021, 'A Kind of Spark' is truly outstanding. It tells the story of Addie - school girl, lover of sharks and determined campaigner. Addie is autistic and sees the world differently to many of the people around her. This causes her to struggle at school, in a large part due to her teacher's inability to understand why she reacts to things in a certain way.
Mrs. Murphy humiliates Addie in front of the whole class, tearing up her work and accusing her of copying her Maths equations from a classmate. What makes things worse is that she tries to ruin Addie's enjoyment of a new topic that the class is studying - the horrific treatment of women accused of being witches in the old days in Edinburgh.
Addie quickly recognises that these women, like her, were misuderstood by society and she is determined that there should be a plaque in her home village of Juniper to commemorate them. Despite facing overwhelming opposition at the village meeting, she continues to fight for her cause, along with her new school friend Audrey.
Meanwhile, Addie's former best friend Jenna has turned away from her and buddied up with Emily, who seems to resent Addie. Things come to a head in an awful incident in which Emily defaces Addie's property. Luckily, Addie has her older sisters standing by her and rooting for her, particularly Keedie who fully understands the way Addie feels.
I know that this story will stay with me for a very long time. There are some particularly vivid and beautiful descriptions of the importance of celebrating difference:
"The ocean needs all kinds of fish," Keedie says quietly. "Just like the world needs all kinds of mind. Just one would be really dull, wouldn't it?"
I know what she's trying to say. "I suppose."
"Even on days like today," she says, turning a page for me, a coral reef with so many colourful fish. "Even today I still wouldn't change you and I wouldn't change me."
If you haven't read 'A Kind of Spark,' I really recommend that you do!