The View from the Very Best House in Town (Walker Books, 2022) is a tale of friendship, told with a twist. Sam and Asha are both autistic and ostracized as a result. They’re each other’s best friends, playing soccer and their favorite videogame, Househaunt, together.
As the summer ends and Sam and Asha are preparing to begin seventh grade, they’re suddenly separated by Sam’s acceptance into the most prestigious school in Coreville, Castleton Academy. When Sam is pushed into the privileged world of Castleton, more of an outsider than ever, he meets Prestyn Donaldson. Prestyn is the most popular girl in school, and her family lives in the biggest mansion in Coreville—Donnybrooke. Meanwhile, Asha makes new friends and does her best to forget about Sam, but she can’t stop worrying about him. He’s been hanging out with Prestyn, who happens to be Asha’s nemesis ever since a disastrous party years ago. Is that why Sam’s been skipping soccer practice every Thursday--to go to Donnybrooke? But why does Sam keep going to the best house in town if he looks miserable every time he leaves?
Meera Trehan’s debut novel sets itself apart with its original premise. Not only does she have two incredible protagonists with touching journeys, but her book also includes thirteen chapters from the viewpoint of Donnybrooke itself! As the main characters of The View from the Very Best House in Town are portrayed as middle-schoolers, their descriptions and phrasing can at times be simplistic. Even so, no detail is left out of the narrative. A well-thought-out video game that serves as an analogy for friendship and a weathervane containing an important message, are both examples of the book’s multiple layers. Older or experienced readers are best suited for this book, as they will recognize and understand the underlying themes.
Even though friendship is the driving force of The View from the Very Best House in Town, there is another, underplayed but equally important message. Asha and Sam are both subject to discrimination because of their autism. In Asha’s case, she was humiliated by the Donaldsons during their housewarming party, while Sam is made fun of and called the ‘Miracle Boy’ after his classmates find out about an embarrassing article. Despite having good intentions, Asha’s mom doesn’t understand her daughter’s pain and can’t relate to how Asha’s feeling. Sam’s parents try to encourage their son, but inadvertently push him to remain silent about how he’s feeling. Asha and Sam are both struggling, and they need each other’s support.
This tween drama is slow to develop, but will entrance readers with a mix of drama and personal growth. A spotlight on what it means to be different, The View from the Very Best House in Town is a necessary read for anyone who has felt lonely or has felt the need to belong. No matter who reads this touching book about friendship, the moral of this story will stay with them long after the end of the book—always remember who your friends are.
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