Monday, June 24, 2013

Rogue by Lyn Miller-Lachmann

229 p. Nancy Paulsen Books/ Penguin Group (USA) Inc., May 16, 2013. 9780399162251. (Finished copy provided by the author for review.)

I'm not one to collect great first lines. Anytime I see a request on a listserv or a blog asking for favorite first lines, I usually draw a blank. For some reason, I rarely notice them, or if I do, I don't keep track. I definitely noticed the first line of Rogue, which prompted me to create a tag called, "great first lines," just now.

"It usually took the new kids two weeks to dump me, three weeks at the most."

It's a great first line. It's a great first chapter. There's a preview on Amazon if you want to hop over and take a look. I'll wait.

Kiara leaps achingly to life from that very first sentence. When she matter-of-factly explains why she smashed new-girl Melanie in the face with a lunch tray, my heart just broke.

Kiara wants to know the secret. How did Melanie wind up at the popular table in nanoseconds? Why can't Kiara make a friend? Now that she's expelled and homeschooled, Kiara's lonelier than ever. It's just her and her dad since her mom left the family to pursue her singing career in Canada. Kiara's still stinging from that. That, and the fact that one of her much older brothers felt it necessary to inform Kiara that her Aspergers Syndrome is probably the result of the chemotherapy her father underwent to treat cancer a few years before Kiara was born. Her other brother is much nicer, as is that brother's friend, Antonio. 

So desperate is she to make and keep one friend, that when new neighbors move in nearby, first she lies to seem cool, then, she helps Chad, the older son, bike to nearby pharmacies to collect Sudafed that will be used to create methamphetamine. At first, she's unaware of the purpose for the transactions. She naively thinks that it's for Chad's little brother's cold, but Mr. Internet, her go-to source for many of life's difficult questions, enlightens her. 

Not only does she love BMX biking, she's also a fan of the X-men. She identifies with Rogue, in particular because Rogue doesn't like to be touched and lashes out. She thinks her new friend, Chad might be a fan, but he just thinks her interest is babyish. He is a BMX fan though and she shows him the trails where bikers meet up. She finds a niche with the older BMX bikers at the trails when she videos their tricks, sets music to them and uploads them to the Internet. Music helps her connect to the emotions that elude her. 

Rogue is an especially welcome addition to middle school literature featuring a main character with Aspergers, not only because the story is interesting and engaging but because Kiara is the first YA female character and only the second that I've read to have the syndrome. (First was Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine, which is a lovely middle grade novel.) All of the identified students I've had at my schools, have been boys and it seems that most of the fiction I've read so far has featured boys. It's important for young readers to engage in quality stories featuring both boys and girls facing unique challenges. Children on the spectrum are not the only ones needing to learn empathy.

Kathryn Erskine features an interview on her blog with author, Lyn Miller-Lachmann, here. I reviewed Lyn's debut novel, Gringolandia here, and also attended a reading by the author, which I wrote about here. 


  1. Thank you for reading and reviewing ROGUE! I'm so thrilled that you liked it, and you liked the first line too. I was a little nervous when the designer put that first line on the cover of ROGUE, because that's the way I was in school, and I felt as if the cover advertised my unpopularity.

    Like Kiara, I didn't know at the time that my inability to make and keep friends was due to Asperger's syndrome. I had to wait all the way until adulthood--when there was greater understanding of autism spectrum disorders--before finding out why I had trouble fitting in and following rules and why I always felt "different."

  2. This sounds like a fascinating book with many layers. I'm definitely looking for it. Thanks for sharing it and this blog post with the June Carnival of Children's Literature.