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Ellen Outside the Lines by A J Sass - Review

Friday, May 27, 2022

Where did I get it? Amazon! You all know how much I loved Ana on the Edge so when someone mentioned a second book by A J Sass I RAN to Amazon to order this. Then I picked it up just a few days later. I'm so glad I did because I loved it so much 

What's it about? Ellen is thirteen years old and lives in Georgia since her family moved from New York. She is autistic. She lives with her parents, Mom and Abba. The family is Jewish. Ellen has just one friend, Laurel, but recently Laurel has made friends with some popular girls and the two have stopped having as many sleepovers and such. 

Now Ellen and her Abba are going to Spain on a school trip. They arrive, staying at a hotel with sixteen other kids, and a few teachers. Due to a misunderstanding, Ellen ends up in a team with three kids she doesn't know, not Laurel. She's with Andy and Gibs, and a new student called Isa. Isa is non binary and their pronouns are they/them. Ellen likes schedules and she thinks she has the trip figured out, until Senor L, the Spanish teacher, tells them that their teams will have to solve clues around Barcelona. 

Ellen tries to split herself between her team and Laurel, but she feels like Laurel cares more about her new friends Sophie-Anne and Madison. Meanwhile she gets on really well with her team, figuring out the clues and enjoying Barcelona's sights. I loved Ellen's team - they soon learnt what she needed from them and were all very gentle with her. I loved Andy and Isa especially. I know why Ellen loved Laurel, but I felt she was quite nasty - and I think Ellen did by the end too.

This is a lovely, lovely book, and I didn't want it to end. I loved how Ellen's autism was portrayed, and how things that helped her (like stimming, or noise cancelling headphones) were shown too.

I also liked the range of genders and sexualities shown, and how they were explained in age appropriate ways, but with really cute crushes on other characters too. 

I also love to see Jewish families portrayed too! Even while away, Ellen and her Abba celebrated Shabbat with her mum, and tried to keep kosher. There's a lovely discussion about Judaism that I really liked. Again, it gave the reader a lot of information without feeling preachy. 

This is a perfect middle grade book. I think I want to be A J Sass when I grow up! I definitely want to write like them! 

What age range is it for? Ten or eleven plus, I think. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yep! Ellen already knows she has crushes on girls, and doesn't really understand why Laurel and her friends are surprised by this (I'm autistic myself and FELT THIS SO HARD, omg), and as I say there's a range of genders and sexualities and I loved this. It felt very real. 

Are any main characters people of colour? Isa is of Hispanic origin, I think, and people assume that they speak Spanish, which they hit back at, which I liked. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes, as I say, Ellen is autistic and this was portrayed brilliantly. I think Gibs has ADHD too, although it's not named - he does take meds which "help him concentrate", so I inferred he had ADHD from that. 

Are there swear words? No 


What criticisms do I have? None, I just loved it so much 

Would I recommend the book? Yes, run to it right now. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I just couldn't wait to read it. I actually didn't realise I read Ana on the Edge all the way back in 2020. 


What do I think of the cover? It's lovely - you get a picture of Ellen immediately. I also really like the title - it fits with Ana on the Edge in a really nice way 

How many stars? Five out of five! It's just gorgeous 


Where is the book going now? I'll definitely keep it!

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