So April is Autism Pride Month, and I thought I would recommend some books and stories that have autistic characters or discuss autism. I am trying something new with this list: I am including books that I personally recommend, but I am also including books on my TBR that have been reviewed positively or recommended by other autistic reviewers. (I linked to reviews where I could.) I am planning to update this list as I read more and hear about more books, so it can be an ongoing resource.
I especially recommend starting with the books and stories by autistic authors, so I am putting them at the top of each list, labeling that section separately, and indicating them with two asterisks.** I am marking stories and books that are available in audio with an (A).
Genre Romance Books With Autistic MCs
By autistic authors:
- Untouchable by Talia Hibbert (contemporary m/f romance novel)** I fell so hard for the heroine of this single dad/nanny romance. Fell for her and felt for her, and loved watching their romance unfold. Untouchable is one of my most favorite books of Hibbert’s. Note: Hannah’s autism is Word of God established, in the interview I link below.(A)
- Nine of Swords, Reversed by Xan West (me!) (contemporary fantasy genderfluid/genderfluid romance novelette)** This contemporary fantasy romance novelette centers two Jewish fat disabled genderfluid mages sorting out the issues in their D/s relationship. It is very much about the intersections of disability, gender, trauma and D/s, and while it definitely has some angst, it’s also rather cozy and heartwarming, in the ways the central characters treat each other and work to mend their relationship. Note: Dev’s autism is named on the page.
- Whip, Stir and Serve by Caitlyn Frost and Henry Drake (contemporary m/demigirl romance novelette)** Amazing short contemporary kink meet-cute romance centering an autistic bisexual demigirl submissive MC with anxiety and a careful, sweet, very hot dominant man MC who makes cinnamon rolls. Hot realistic BDSM scene full of consent. Note: Maggie’s autism is named on the page.
- A Girl Like Her by Talia Hibbert (contemporary m/f romance novel)** This is a gorgeous, complex, tightly plotted, deeply characterized, super swoony, neighbors-to-lovers romance. It has a tremendous heart, and is both full of angst and full of humor in a way that feels very balanced. I loved the fat rep in this, like I have all of Hibbert’s books. But what blew me away was the autism rep, which resonated so deep for me. And the depiction of trauma (the heroine is a survivor of intimate partner violence and stalking) felt spot-on accurate. (A)
- Their Troublesome Crush by Xan West (me!) (contemporary m/f romance novella with a trans man hero)** This cute foodie kinky polyamorous metamours to lovers romance centers a demiromantic autistic fat Jewish trans man named Ernest. Ernest is bouncy, caring, careful, and, well…earnest. Out of all my autistic characters so far, he masks the least. Ernest loves cooking, showtunes and service based submission and he’s writing a musical with his autistic BFF Judith. He spends much of the book trying to figure out if he has a crush on Nora and isn’t quite sure what that would mean, as he’s never been into a cis person before. Note: Ernest’s and Judith’s autism are named on the page.
By allistic authors:
- An Unseen Attraction by KJ Charles (historical m/m romance novel) I fell incredibly hard for the autistic & dyspraxic MC in this kinky m/m historical romance. I especially appreciated the pacing, the beautiful writing, and the depiction of D/s in this story. FYI, the autistic MC faces a lot of ableism from his family, including violence and psychological abuse. Note: Clem’s dyspraxia is Word of God established (the author has openly stated it), while his autism is something I drew from my own reading experience and discussion with other autistic readers. (A)
- Can’t Escape Love by Alyssa Cole (contemporary m/f romance novella) This has wonderful disability representation, is delightfully geeky, and I fell really hard for both of the MCs. The cover is wonderful, the book was funny and heartwarming and deeply engaging. I was glad to see the fact that the hero is autistic named on the page, and really adored Gus. There is a moment when he concludes that he misread social cues that particularly resonated for me. (A)
- The Remaking of Corbin Wale by Roan Parrish (contemporary m/m romance novel) Beautiful rather angsty romance with so much baking, a lovely Chanukah feast, and characters that stole my heart and gave me so many feels. I especially appreciated the autistic artist MC, and the kink, and also the dogs. FYI, the autistic MC faces quite a lot of ableism and is very isolated, so this may not work for some autistic readers. Note: I read Corbin as autistic, the word is not used on the page. (A)
- Appetites and Vices by Felicia Grossman (historical m/f romance novel) I did not know the heroine was autistic in this before reading, and was pleasantly surprised to find an autistic character in a historical romance who is for the most part, not pathologized by the people close to her and where the autistic representation resonated with my own experience. Note: I read Ursula as autistic, it is not named on the page.
- His Quiet Agent by Ada Maria Soto (contemporary m/m romance novella) This contemporary romance between two ace spec spies has this wonderful measured pace to it that soothes me, perhaps because its told from the POV of a demisexual MC, and centers a new relationship. I read the love interest as autistic, and the representation resonated for me. Note: I read Martin as autistic, it is not named on the page. (A)
- The Witness by Nora Roberts (contemporary m/f romantic suspense novel) his is one of my go to longish comfort rereads, but I fell in love with the audiobook. For me the heart of this is a strong, complex, flawed autistic heroine that I adore, and her amazing relationship with her dog. It’s never named on the page, but the heroine resonates so deeply for me as an autistic reader, and I love that she is unabashedly herself and doesn’t even try to pass as NT. (A)
- Love on My Mind by Tracey Livesay (contemporary m/f romance novel) This is a very well paced, deeply characterized compelling romance. It has a rained in trope, and it manages the idea of preparing an autistic character to do a public presentation in a way that I found pretty respectful; I’ve read versions of that kind of plot that are intensely ableist and this doesn’t read that way. The autistic MC faces ableism, but is mostly moving from a place of self acceptance, and I like the depiction of his friendships. I struggled with the way this leaned towards autism voice in his POV, but it was subtle enough that I was pretty okay with it. This has an Aspie hero (named on the page) who didn’t resonate much with my own experience of being Aspie.
- A Rational Arrangement by L. Rowyn (polyamorous fantasy m/m/f romance novel) I have heard good things about both the polyamory representation and the autism representation in this fantasy romance, and I’m looking forward to reading it. I also hear there are giant talking cats, which I am quite excited about.
- The Other Side of the Roses by R. Cooper (contemporary m/m romance novella) I generally adore the author’s writing style, and this book has a lot to offer in terms of the swooniness possible with a long time crush from childhood. I fell really hard for Sami, the chubby Iranian American gay MC who has been yearning for his childhood neighbor and meets him again in adulthood. I have mixed feelings about the autism rep (the autistic MC experiences quite a lot of ableism, including when he is first introduced, and is rescued by the allistic MC), but there is something lovely about a romance where the MC is unabashedly swooning over an autistic love interest & doesn’t bring ableism into the way he sees his love interest. Sami is a bit of a magical autism whisperer but that didn’t bug me as much as it has in other stories, maybe because I liked him so much.
- Wrong to Need You by Alisha Rai (contemporary m/f romance novel) Angsty romance with lots of family drama and a brother’s widow trope. Jackson has been pining for Sadia for a very long time, and I adored their low-key femdom dynamic, how much he wanted to be what she needed and take care of her and love her. I read him as autistic, and the representation resonated for me. (A)
Young Adult and Middle Grade Books with Autistic MCs
By autistic authors:
- The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas (YA romance)** This book feels like it does something different from the other books I’ve read with autistic MCs, like its a deeper POV and feels very real and also like the book lets Grace be as autistic as she is, in a way that feels new to me, without making it about her autism. The romance has a light presence, and a lovely arc. (Rep: Autistic girl MC. Autistic woman author.)
- Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde (YA romance)** I really enjoyed this YA; one of the two POV characters is an autistic girl with anxiety who is about to graduate high school and is anxious about change, attending her first con, falling in love, and meeting the author of the books that are her special interest. The autism representation really resonated for me and I fell hard for Taylor, and felt for her as she grapples with all this, with the help of her blog and her friends. (A)
- On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis (post apocalyptic YA)** I have heard really wonderful things about the ownvoices autism rep in this post apocalyptic YA book, a subgenre I rarely read, so I’m waiting to be in the right headspace for reading it, and just patting my e-reader happy to know it’s waiting for me. (A)
- Me and Sam-Sam Handle the Apocalypse by Susan Vaught (mystery middle grade) I have heard wonderful things about the autism representation in this upcoming book from an autistic reviewer (whose review is not yet posted, I will add it when it’s up), and I’m really excited to read it. Plus the autistic MC is said to have a really great dog, which makes me happy. (Out May 2019)
- The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla (contemporary middle grade)** I’ve heard some lovely things about this middle grade road trip book, which resonated with autistic readers I trust. I’m looking forward to giving it a try!
By allistic authors:
- Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X Stork (contemporary YA) This YA centers an autistic boy who is forced to stop working with the horses he loves and to instead work for the summer at his father’s law firm in “the real world” with pressure to try to mask his autism there. I connected so much with Marcelo and the depth of his POV in the book that I found it too painful to read, but I hear from other autistic readers that it is definitely worth reading, and I want to try it again someday. (A)
- Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray (science fiction YA) I am excited to read this as Leia’s friend in this book (who is played by one of my favorite actresses in The Last Jedi) is autistic and I hear the portrayal is well rounded and respectful. (A)
- Note: This has a central character who can be read as autistic; she is not the MC.
- Review by Ada Hoffman
- The Real Boy by Anne Ursu (fantasy middle grade) A middle grade secondary world fantasy with an autistic MC, written from his POV, that comes with Corrine Duyvis’ recommendation, yes I want to try this book. (A)
Speculative Fiction Books with Autistic MCs
By autistic authors:
- The Lifeline Signal by RoAnna Sylver (scifantasy novel) ** I loved the prequel story to this, and fell so hard for the autistic character Annie, who has a helmet that she uses to help control sensory input! I’d love one of those. I haven’t read this yet, but have heard great things from other autistic readers.
- An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon (science fiction novel)** This centers a Black autistic woman character, who is searching for her dead mother and residing on a ship that resembles the antebellum south in the U.S., including slavery. I haven’t read it yet, but have heard wonderful things from multiple autistic readers and many more folks as well. (A)
- Geometries of Belonging by RB Lemberg (fantasy novelette)** This book challenges cure narratives about both disability and transness. I adore Dedéi; I love the way they talk abt magical geometry & how they advocate for themself. I also love Parét from the same novelette. He’s not as overtly marked as autistic but I read him that way. I love his carefulness & empathy.
- Failure to Communicate by Kaia Sønderby (science fiction novel)** I have heard so many wonderful things about this science fiction novel about autistic people learning to communicate with aliens, and the autism representation in it! Cannot wait to read. It is the first novel in a series that includes a prequel (Testing Pandora) and a sequel (Tone of Voice) so far.
- The Outside by Ada Hoffman (science fiction novel)** With this kind of endorsement from Takács, I am excited to read the autistic representation in this debut novel about cyborgs and teacher/student relationships. It’s out June 2019.
- The Book of How to Live by RB Lemberg (fantasy novelette)** This book centers two queer marginalized magicless women who work together toward revolution in a world where people with magic hold power. I love the Aspie character Efronia; her brain works like mine! I have no words for how amazing it was to read that. I also really like how brilliant she is at making things and how much she cares about being an artificer.
- “Iwunen Interstellar Investigations (Prologue Season)” by Bogi Takács (novella-length web serial)** Almost everyone in this is autistic, and it is set on a magical planet of autistic people! I haven’t read this one yet but I’ve loved other work by this author and read a review by an autistic reader that got me super excited.
Short Stories with Autistic MCs
By autistic authors:
- “Difference of Opinion” by Meda Kahn (speculative fiction)** This story has autistic folks advocating for themselves and each other in an oppressive world and I am looking forward to reading, have heard really great things about it. (A)
- “How To Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps” by A. Merc Rustad (science fiction)** This story engages directly with the robot trope, and isn’t a classical linear narrative; both of these elements really worked for me. I fell hard for Tesla in this story. It’s a rather sad story, as the MC is depressed and suicidal. The stuckness Tesla feels resonated. (A)
- “The Need for Overwhelming Sensation” by Bogi Takács (space opera)** I heart Iryu, e grabbed me from the start. I love how e is matter of fact abt kink. I love how e is so clear abt eir sensory needs. I really like how e is both vulnerable & strong. Iryu is not overtly marked in the text as autistic but I read em that way mostly because of how sensory stuff works for em.
- “Tenderness” by Xan West (me!) (chosen family love story)** (printed in Queerly Loving Vol 2) This is a queer contemporary short story that centers a Jewish autistic bisexual kinky fat femme MC Judith with chronic migraines, and her Jewish fat queer genderqueer BFF Shiloh. Judith just got dumped by her girlfriend. She has a meltdown and is supported by Shiloh and then her queer chosen family. This is a cozy comfort read, one that depicts a queer kinky chosen family having a potluck and gathering to support a family member who is struggling. I often refer to it as a queer chosen family love story.
- “Four Point Affective Calibration” by Bogi Takács (contemporary science fiction)** This piece gets me in the gut, it’s really wonderful and rather difficult to describe. I really like the autistic engagement with the complexities and nuances of emotion in it, as well as the nuanced immigration politics, and I deeply appreciate the way it feels very contemporary. (A)
- The Queen of Cups by Ren Basel** (fantasy story) This short story has a folk tale feel, and it centers an autistic non-binary sailor in a QPP with a trans woman sailor, and an oracle who both tells their fortune and ultimately changes their fate. I liked that the autism rep was fairly incidental in this, and it was mostly about the adventure.
- “Trying Submission by Xan West (me!) (f/f erotica story with a trans woman MC)** (printed in Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year Vol 3) This erotica story centers a fat autistic femme trans lesbian woman trying out submission for the first time with another fat femme lesbian, a member of her leather family who she trusts. It’s D/s focused, and sex is off the table from the start. It also shows her going non-verbal during both negotiations and play, and them finding ways to continue to communicate and ensure consent.
- So You Want to be a Robot and Other Stories by A Merc Rustad (speculative fiction story collection)** I have loved several of these stories already and am looking forward to reading the entire collection. I especially appreciate Rustad’s autistic and trans representation.
- Conservation of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee (speculative fiction story collection)** I have loved Lee’s short fiction in other collections, and this one promises some stories with autistic representation
- Monsters in My Mind by Ada Hoffman (speculative fiction story collection)** I’ve heard lovely things about this collection, especially with regard to it’s autism representation. It also has a story with an aromantic character that I adore! I’m excited to read this.
By allistic authors:
- “And If the Body Were Not The Soul” by A.C. Wise (science fiction story) A touch averse autistic ace character gets to do cool stuff with aliens, yes I want to read this, thank you. (A)
- “They Jump Through Fires” by Gabriela Santiago (horror story) I need to wait til I’m up for reading horror, but this one is about an autistic woman grieving her girlfriend, and I definitely want to give it a try. Autistic grief is a particular experience and I hear that it’s captured quite well in this. (A)
- “Please Don’t Leave” by Isz Janeway (f/f erotica with a trans woman MC) (printed in Nerve Endings: The New Trans Erotic) Sid totally has my heart. I adore her super crushy feels and how much she tries to go for what she wants. I read her as autistic; it’s not clearly marked in the text. I especially loved watching the way submission seemed to bring her ease. & she was super adorable in her dynamic with Fran, She grabbed me.
- “A Silly Love Story” by Nino Cipri (speculative romance story) I was delighted by this romance story that had a friendly poltergeist. I especially appreciated the genderfluid love interest, and the autistic MCs discussion of language frustrations.
- “Unauthorized Access” by An Owomoyela (science fiction story) This centers an autistic hacker who can talk but communicates better via text and I definitely need representation like that in my life. Looking forward to this one. (A)
Non-fiction Anthologies by Autistic Authors
- Loud Hands: Autistic People, Speaking by Autism Self Advocacy Network. edited by Julia Bascom** This is a classic self advocacy text, and I’ve heard amazing things about the personal essays in this collection. It’s rare to read books about autistic people’s lives that are full of our own voices.
- All the Weight of Our Dreams: On Living Racialized Autism by Autism Women’s Network, edited by Lydia X.Z. Brown, E. Ashkenazy, and Morénike Giwa Onaiwu** I started reading this anthology and it blew me away already just a few essays in. Really looking forward to this POC centered volume, with work by some of my fave autistic activists.
- Knowing Why: Adult-Diagnosed Autistic People on Life and Autism by Autism Self Advocacy Network. edited by Elizabeth Bartness** This collection just came out recently and I’m looking forward to diving into it, as I’m adult diagnosed. I’ve heard amazing things so I had to add it here.
Want to find more recs? Here are a few sources for reviews!
Autistic Book Party is an awesome resource created by autistic author Ada Hoffman. It’s my top recommendation for finding reviews of autistic representation in SFF. Here is the easiest list to start from, and here is Ada Hoffman’s patreon if you want to support Autistic Book Party.
I also highly recommend Bogi Reads the World, a review site by autistic author Bogi Takács that is a great resource for diverse recommendation lists and thoughtful reviews discussing autism representation. Here are the posts about neuroatypical authors, and the posts about neuroatypical characters.
Disability in Kidlit is a wonderful site focused on disability representation in children’s literature, that centers reviews by ownvoices reviewers. They aren’t creating new content, but the archives are a trove of really useful reviews and posts. Here are the posts about autistic representation.