Genre: Middle-Grade Fantasy
Published: Puffin Books (Penguin), February 2022
My Rating: 5/5 stars
“I still haven’t told my gang about all of the stuff he said about us in the diary. That’s the sort of stuff that breaks people here. Not our bodies or brains, but the way outsiders think about them.”
This book had everything I could've wanted in a middle-grade novel, in my disability-fiction and more. A lovable full cast of disabled but very capable heroes, a sea-side adventure with a sprinkle of mermaid-magic, and beautiful underlying message about friendship, found-family, love and acceptance.
When Alpha Lux first arrived at Haven Point, washed up ashore as a foundling baby, it was nothing more than an abandoned lighthouse surrounded by ramshackle empty houses. Raised by a mermaid and a maverick sea captain with a kitten in his beard, Alpha has seen Haven Point grow into what it is now; a refuse for disabled kids like herself in need of place to belong. When Alpha spots a strange light on the headland one day, she discovers their safely isolated community might be in danger of being discovered by Outsiders. With their home under threat, she and her fellow Wrecklings must decide what kind of future they want . . . and what they're willing to do to get it.
The book took me on an emotional journey. From putting a smile on my face at the friendship-interactions (specifically between Alpha and Badger), to tears in my eyes at some of the events near the end. From excitement over the characters adventures, to that wonderful feeling of home and safety that radiates from Haven Point. From anger at the (relatable) lack of understanding of their disabilities from the Outside, to pride at the wonderful way they learn to accept themselves and each other, and the decisions they make from there.
This is the kind of book I wish I would’ve had growing up as a child with a disability. It’s also luckily timeless enough that I can still enjoy and benefit from it as an adult.
Why this book matters:
I hope this goes without saying by now, but I’ll repeat it once again for the people in the back: representation matters. Lisette Auton understands that, and gets so much right about disability rep. Disabled characters are still far too rare on page, especially in children’s fiction. If they feature at all, they’re usually side-characters, ór the book is centred completely around an “overcoming disability”-storyline. The Secrets of Haven Point refuses that narrative. It tells a story with a plot that stands on its own, with character-development that has nothing to do with their physical abilities. It’s a story about friendship and trust, prejudice and acceptance, joy and grief, and characters learning to living full lives together, unlimited by their physical differences.
“Have you learnt nothing from this place? They’re not reasons to leave, they’re reasons to love harder. They’re reasons to stay”.
The Secret of Haven Point will join my list of go-to-disability recommendations, but I honestly highly. It's a book that clearly came from the heart of a passionate author who loves what she writes, and I can't wait to see what she does next. Her sophomore novel The Stickleback Catchers has been added to my TBR as we speak.
Find this book here on Goodreads.