Eleven-year-old Aurora Petrequin is aware that people get annoyed with her because she impulsively blurts out what she’s thinking and she can’t sit still even though she really tries to. In her first years of school, Aurora found it difficult to make friends. But when she was in grade three, Frenchie Livernois, who is autistic and doesn’t speak, moved with his mom to the small Maine coastal community where Aurora lives. Unexpectedly and amazingly, Frenchie chose Aurora as his person, and Aurora picked Frenchie as her person. From the start, Aurora saw Frenchie, not just with her physical eyes, but really saw him with the eyes of her heart.
Now, three years later, Aurora is still aware that her peers and people in the community don’t see Frenchie as she does. To many of them, he’s an Invisible Boy. But Aurora loves being with Frenchie, spending time with him in nature watching birds and hoping for more sightings of the piebald deer, a rare animal with a multicolored coat, which they’ve glimpsed several times.
On an ordinary day, things go terribly wrong when it’s discovered that Frenchie is missing. Aurora blames herself and does all she can to help the search effort as first responders and the townspeople join forces to find Frenchie. In this beautifully crafted novel, author Leslie Connor weaves into the search narrative the stories of several townspeople who are facing their own trials and fail to see Frenchie when he is practically right in front of them. As the community pulls together and new insights are gained, Aurora realizes the gift unfolding before her: “I have a good thought: there are so many people who want to bring Frenchie home. He gets ignored a lot, it’s true. He’s the kid nobody is sure what to do with.” But, Aurora understands as she reflects on the rescue effort, whole families from her school community continue to join the search because Frenchie is no longer invisible to them.
Suspenseful, deeply moving, and a celebration of truly seeing a person, this novel for middle-grade readers is a compelling window into the life of a boy with autism and the experiences of a girl with many challenges who forge a unique and extraordinary friendship. (Katherine Tegen Books)