Last year, Elle wowed me with her debut, A Kind of Spark. I wrote a glowing review here, and pretty much everyone has been agreeing with me. This week, she won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2021 – so well deserved. See more about that here, and click through to the SPECIAL EDITION! But we’re here to talk about her sophomore novel, Show Us Who You Are. I am finding this one much harder to review in many ways – it’s brilliant, but also tough, and I felt like some elements ultimately didn’t fit together quite as well as I hoped. I still loved it and I hope you will too.
Many thanks to Annabelle at ed PR and Knights Of for sending me a review copy – all opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 04/03/2021
SUMMARY: When Cora’s brother drags her along to his boss’s house, she doesn’t expect to strike up a friendship with Adrien, son of the intimidating CEO of Pomegranate Technologies. As she becomes part of Adrien’s life, she is also drawn into the mysterious projects at Pomegranate.
At first, she’s intrigued by them – Pomegranate is using AI to recreate real people in hologram form. As she digs deeper, however, she uncovers darker secrets… Cora knows she must unravel their plans, but can she fight to make her voice heard, whilst never losing sight of herself? (from Knighs Of)
OPINIONS: I think Show Us Who You Are is an incredibly difficult book to review, especially because I, late twenties, possibly, no, most probably neurodivergent, something which I’m currently trying to figure out, am not really the target audience. The book really is written for neurodivergent kids and is a love letter to being different. But, at the same time, it is also a manifest of rage against the status quo, against how the world expects people to slot into preconceived notions. I have spoken about the story with readers who are neurotypical, who did not understand how the book worked at all – who saw Cora and Adrien’s friendship and were confused, who saw two kids who shared nothing but neurodivergency. To them I say that IS how friendship works for those to whom it doesn’t come easily. In that relationship, I saw myself as a kid. Meeting someone and adopting them as a friend immediately even if it wasn’t perfect from the start. Heck, I made a new friend just last week by simply deciding that we’re friends now.
And the story in Show is compelling. It is a mystery and Cora is a fantastic heroine. She’s driven and she is principled and I adore her. It is a really good book. What I did think detracted from the story at times though is that the political messaging overshadowed the story itself. There were moments where it seemed more like a book aimed at adult readers featuring child characters than a true middle grade adventure – but that might be connected to my perception and subtext that would not be as visible to a child reader as it was to me as an older one. I have already read it a couple of times while trying to figure out how to review it, and I’m sure I will read it again – Elle McNicoll is a brilliant writer, and one to keep watching!