MOOJAG and the Auticode Secret is a children’s book, but to me it felt like a children’s book that adults were meant to read. The refreshing setting of a post-apocalyptic world without immediate danger allowed for the representation of autism and neurodivergence in a way I had never seen before. It encourages neurodivergent children to embrace their identity, without ever being patronising. MOOJAG’s setting and context as “climate fiction,” while childlike and fun, is crucial to the plot’s work of framing the message that neurodiversity should be more than simply accommodated – it should be celebrated.
The book’s narrative of what it’s like to live as a neurodivergent child is accessible, but deeply profound. Much of this is because the story is so plot-driven. Instead of trying to educate the reader, it gives unparalleled insight into neurodivergent joy and struggle. This is a book for autistic children and adults alike to see themselves in and feel powerful. MOOJAG discusses sensitive topics such as the ableism and discrimination that neurodivergent people face, but this is never underplayed or overly hardhitting. I was really happy to see that neurotypes other than autism, such as ADHD, were considered, since they are often side-lined in media.
The characters have real agency that is never in spite of their neurodivergence, rather it is undoubtedly shaped by it, and is integral to the characters’ way of being. Every character recognises this and empowers their peers through it, even if those peers might struggle more. They are united in their quest to navigate an ableist world that wants them to feel broken. While autism and neurodivergence were absolutely the centre of the book, the characters were developed far beyond mainstream stereotypes of autism. Mainstream autistic fiction is oversaturated with older male savants, but in MOOJAG, the portrayal of a young autistic female main character is perfect. I don’t think representation this good could ever be seen outside of an own-voice perspective like Nema’s, and I’m confident that MOOJAG will pave the way for the neurodivergent representation we need and deserve.
Pre-order MOOJAG and the Auticode Secret at Waterstones and Amazon.
Words: Beatrix Livesey-Stephens