Cheerfully irreverent, The Asparagus Bunch by Jessica Scott-Whyte is one of the most entertaining books we’ve read this year. It tells the story of Leon, who is precisely 4,779 days old. The confectionery-obsessed owner of fourteen identical yellow hoodies, Leon has been told he has an attitude problem. This could be why he’s been moved on from six different schools. Or maybe he’s just been terribly misunderstood. We join him at school number seven, as he navigates life as a square peg in a round hole.
Leon has no filter. Thoughts that pop into his head have to immediately exit via his mouth, leading to an inevitable apology and a well-rehearsed line, drilled into him by his mum, ‘ I may have said something that has caused upset, anger or offence.’
In preparation for his new school, despairing mum, Caroline, books a medical assessment, where it is posited that her son has an autism spectrum disorder. Leon is appalled. He despises being labelled, even when it’s pointed out that he’ll be in the august company of Mozart, Einstein, and Charles Darwin.
So it is that he begins his ‘new scholastic venture’ defiantly unlabelled but none the wiser. School is the usual combo of incompetent teachers, 100% polyester uniforms, and, of course, sadistic troublemakers, in this case, one Glen Jenkins, who upon realising Leon’s difference, sets out to make his life extremely unpleasant.
A thoroughly engaging debut, The Asparagus Bunch follows Leon’s journey to self-acceptance and the impact his neurodivergence has had on his selfless mother. Along the way friendship rears its unlikely head, and we learn an awful lot about confectionery from this sweet-toothed kid who once ate 27 Chupa Chups lollipops in one day.
Fun and jokes abound in a timely celebration of difference. Recommended for the early secondary school years of the Leon in your own life.
The Asparagus Bunch by Jessica Scott-Whyte is published by Welbeck Flame, 240 pages.