Reviewing: A Girl Like Her by Talia Hibbert

TW: Ableism, racism, obsessive behaviour, mentions of sexual assault

My rating: 5 Books out of 5

Highlights:

  • Autistic representation
  • Enthusiastic consent
  • Main character of colour
  • Sex positivity
  • Body positivity
  • Non-toxic masculinity
  • Self-entitled asshole is told in no uncertain terms to go fuck himself

Ruth’s favourite place had always been her head. Inside her mind, the sort of excitement she struggled to process in real life became accessible. She could slow it down and compartmentalise it, like a TV show she controlled utterly. And she could translate it, too. That was the best part.

Talia Hibbert is one of those names I’ve been hearing a lot since my arrival in the world of romance fiction, and as soon as I saw the summary of A Girl Like Her I knew I had to read it. Ruth Kabbah is the town outcast after managing to piss off the most powerful family in town. Evan Miller doesn’t care. New to town, he’s drawn to Ruth – and not just because he now lives next door to her. Honestly, these two were some of the most adorable main characters I’ve encountered in a romance novel. Evan is tall, tattooed, an ex-soldier and an absolute mother hen. Ruth is solitary, sarcastic and suspicious of the heavily muscled man knocking on her door and trying to feed her shepherd’s pie. But small towns hold big grudges, and Ruth’s past doesn’t seem willing to let her go – or let Evan love her.

The stranger’s voice was raw and satisfying, threaded with something that might’ve been concern, and it soothed Ruth’s embarrassment-induced irritation beautifully. But then came a voice that brought it back ten-fold.

“Don’t bother,” said Daniel Burne. “She’s slow.”

This book made me very emotional. Ruth is autistic, and while the way she sees and interacts with the world lends itself well to her career as a comic artist, it is also something the locals use to mock and vilify her. Fully expecting this to add to the list of reasons Evan should avoid her like the plague, Ruth instead watches as Evan learns this information, takes it in, and tries his best to understand and support her. I know and love people with autism, and seeing it portrayed in such a compassionate and wonderful and deeply funny way was wonderful. Because Ruth is an incredibly funny character whose autism is just a trait among many that make her who she is. Her attempts to hide from her best friend that actually yes, she has done her hair because she has a new neighbour who she’d quite like to climb like a tall, tattooed tree fail epically, her response to said neighbour visiting regularly are not to dress up to the nines, but to wear her very finest (and comfiest) pyjamas and (mostly) graciously accept his gifts of food because for some reason he’s afraid she might starve to death. Of course autism has an affect on Ruth and her life, but it is not the driving force behind the story. This is not a novel about a young woman ‘coping’ with autism, it is a book about a young woman who just happens to be autistic, falling in love with a man who adores and supports her 100%. I loved it.

“I was with a guy. Kind of. Before. And once I agreed to be with him, I suppose that meant, in his mind, that I always agreed.”

Evan’s jaw tightened. “You mean—”

“I mean, he didn’t really care if I said yes. Most people don’t care about yes. A few more people care about no.”

This book had ALL THE ENTHUSIASTIC JOYFUL CONSENT of which I am a big fan. Because enthusiastic consent is very sexy. There is some discussion (see above) about how Ruth’s ex wasn’t into the whole ‘asking for consent before sex’ thing like, you know, a decent human being but fear not this is about as graphic as the discussion gets. There’s also a great scene where Ruth candidly discusses what has and hasn’t worked for her in terms of sex in the past, and Evan delightedly takes it all into account. Honestly, these two are just adorable and I spent most of the reading experience going ‘they’re so cute’ while squishing my own face.

Evan failed to see how anyone could not get along with Ruth. Yes; she was prickly and awkward and blunt to a fault. She was also adorably excitable, unapologetically passionate, and secretly, achingly, shy. But then, a man like Daniel would respond poorly to a woman like Ruth. He seemed to expect instant adoration, and Ruth wasn’t capable of that. Evan liked her wariness. It made every inch of her trust a reward.

This book is a treasure, and I will 100% be reading the rest of the series. The main characters are funny, compassionate, stubborn and entirely individual and the evolving dynamics of love and family throughout the book are wonderful. Honestly, I can’t recommend this book highly enough!

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