Dead Ends is a young adult (YA) book that features a character with Down syndrome (Ds).
Dane is a bully with two rules: don’t hit girls and don’t hit special kids. Billy D has Down syndrome. When Dane doesn’t hit him, Billy sees a sign of friendship and reaches out for help. Billy is sure the riddles his missing father left in an atlas are really clues to finding him. Together, Billy and Dane piece them together, leading to unmarked towns and secrets of the past. But they’re all dead ends. Until the final clue . . . and a secret Billy shouldn’t have been keeping.
Some might shy away from YA titles, but I think they might be more important for us to read, for two reasons. First, YA literature often appeals to adult readers. How many movies have you seen as adults started out as novels that are considered YA literature? Hint* everything from To Kill a Mockingbird to Harry Potter to The Fault in our Stars. (Check out the results of a 2012 NPR poll of 100 Best-Ever Teen Novels)
Also, a well written story is a great way for younger readers to get to know someone with Down syndrome. The opposite is also true. Negative stereotypes can cause readers to oversimplify and misjudge people with Ds, especially if they don’t know anyone IRL (as the kids say).
For these reasons, my latest project is something I call Inclusion Club. It’s a offshoot of our Story Club, where we’ll focus on books that qualify as YA novels or children’s literature and contain characters that have Ds. You can join our Facebook group to get updates as we start to roll out our discussions.