Autistic protagonists have become more common lately. I have read a number of such books, and have been pleased with the authenticity of the authors’ portrayals of individuals on the autistic spectrum. I need to point out that these autistic protagonists were children or teens. The Beacons I See by Ty Unglebower is the first novel that I’ve encountered that is written from the perspective of an autistic adult. This is why I decided to purchase it from Amazon and review it for Bookplex.
I did recently read a book in which an autistic child was paranormally gifted like Vanessa Martine in The Beacons I See. It’s called The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin by Stephanie Knipper which I won through a Goodreads giveaway. I believe that the similarity in the surnames of the central characters is coincidental. These two books are very dissimilar in perspective and tone. They also diverge due to the differing paranormal gifts depicted in each novel.
The cover displays the puzzling bright purple beacon that Vanessa saw hovering over a forest in all its glory. This book deals with how that purple beacon brings Vanessa to a greater understanding of her paranormal gift. Vanessa is very introspective. Her thought processes are unusual, but they help her to function in the neurotypical world. Unglebower’s portrayal of Vanessa is the greatest strength of The Beacons I See. Since the author is autistic, readers may wonder how much of his own personality was distilled into his creation. For the purpose of this review, I think it’s sufficient to say that Vanessa seemed very real to me. She reminded me very much of other functioning autistic adults that I know.
Since I really love books dealing with art and artists, I was very interested in Vanessa's sketching activities, her artistic process and how her choice of subjects assisted her psychologically. She drew spiritual figures from several different religious traditions employing insights from her studies of these religions. Since I consider myself a student of all forms of spirituality, this aspect of Vanessa caused me to identify with her.
From a plot perspective, this novel may seem slow paced to readers who expect to see a great deal happening in the novels they read. This is definitely not a thriller. There is eventually a highly dramatic incident that brings about a resolution, but Unglebower is in no hurry to get us there. Vanessa is on a journey and she stops to reflect on every step she takes along her path. If you have no patience for such a novel of character, then this is not the book for you.
The editing wasn’t flawless. I found nine copyediting issues which included missing words, incorrect words and a duplication of words in one particular case. This wasn’t beyond tolerance, but the editing could have been better.
I would like to close with a note about genre. Some might want to categorize this book as contemporary fiction with a magical realist aspect. I feel that the development of the context for Vanessa’s paranormal heritage was significant enough that I am comfortable calling The Beacons I See a rather special fantasy novel that allows us to perceive a unique viewpoint.