Monday, March 10, 2014

REVIEW: "STIM" by Kevin Berry (Xpresso Book Tours)

Robert is different. He has Asperger’s Syndrome. He experiences the world differently to 99% of the population. Follow his entertaining and highly empathetic story as he struggles to realise and accept who he really is, try to understand other people—which he cannot—and find a girlfriend. Especially find a girlfriend—he’s decided it’s his special project for the year. Accompanied on this transformative journey by his quirky flatmates, Chloe (who also has Asperger’s, amongst other things), Stef (who hasn’t, but doesn’t mind) and their oddly-named kitten, Robert endures a myriad of awkward moments in his quest to meet a nice, normal girl…and not even a major earthquake will stop him.

This absorbing and humorous story is starkly told from Robert’s point of view, through the kaleidoscope of autistic experience.

Stim by Kevin Berry
Publication date: October 16th 2013
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult

Kevin Berry is an indie author. His particular niche is writing Aspie New Adult contemporary novels set in an earthquake zone. The first of these is STIM, published in October 2013.

His first novels, co-written with Diane Berry, are Dragons Away!, Growing Disenchantments and Fountain of Forever (humorous fantasy). These are available as paperbacks and ebooks at Amazon and elsewhere.


I was provided with a copy of this book in return for an honest and fair review.  What follows are my honest opinions.

Chances are very good that you know someone who has a diagnosable mental illness.  In fact, some more conservative studies estimate that if you are in a room with 100 other people, 25 of them have been diagnosed with something. 

What do you think of when you hear the words ‘autism’ or ‘Aspergers’?  Does “Rainman” come to mind?  Perhaps you have a friend, sibling, or other relative who has been diagnosed.  Perhaps you have a diagnosis of such yourself.  But what does it really mean to live on the autism spectrum?  What if you could have a first-person narrative of the experience?

Every now and then a book comes along that makes you want to cheer, hug, and cry all at once.  STIM is such a book.  Here Kevin Berry has created a masterpiece which I hope will take the world by the lapels and shake it about a bit.  You see, here we get a voyeuristic glimpse into the world of Aspergers as Berry uses a diary format to tell the fictional story of Robert, a young “Aspie” man as he goes about trying to make his daily life make sense and be less anxiety producing while living in a world designed for neuro-typical (aka non-diagosed) people.  Robert sees the world and interprets experiences in a very different way than neuro-typical individuals.  STIM walks us through this different way – why does he do that?  Why did he say that?  Why doesn’t he just understand?  Why can’t he be like the rest of us NS people (aka those without Aspergers)?  The answer is gloriously simple while also being dizzyingly complex – his brain doesn’t work that way.

A beautifully written, stark glimpse into the mind of someone with Aspergers, this book should be automatic mandatory reading for everyone, but especially for those who know anyone with autism of any form. 


The Good
Let me just preface this book review by giving the disclaimer that I pounced on the chance to read it like a hungry ferret.  You see, I am extensively trained to work with individuals who present with mental health concerns.  If pieces of my review get a little technical, or even a little preachy, that is why - I've advocated for children who live with psychological disorders for a number of years, have studied how these disorders impact daily life, and have worked directly with individuals of varying ages who have been given that peskily stigmatic label of "having a psychological disorder".  

Let's start with a few statistics and facts
  • Approximately 1 in 4 people have a diagnosable mental illness.
  • Males are diagnosed with Aspergers at a much higher rate than females, and such a diagnosis often does not come before age 6 or 7 because language development is often normal (whereas with autism, speech can be delayed).  
  • The media portrays individuals with mental illness (any mental illness) in a patently negative light.

STIM is a fictional story told diary-entry-style that documents approximately a year in the life of Robert, a young college-aged man who has lived his entire life as an individual with Aspergers surrounded by neuro-typical individuals.  Have you ever seen "The Big Bang Theory", an American comedy about super-geniuses and their girl-next-door neighbor (and assorted friends)?  Sheldon.  Robert is essentially Sheldon, although Robert is slightly more in tune with social stuff and actually desires to be a part of society, whereas Sheldon would be perfectly happy retreating from the rest of the world, Nobel Peace Prize for theoretical physics in hand. 

Robert has a best friend who also has Aspergers, a young lady named Chloe, and lives with her and a neuro-typical gal in a house in New Zealand.  He sets goals for the upcoming year and documents them in a diary, per the instructions of his "therapist" (Chloe, she's seen a lot of therapists).  We follow him through awkward social interactions, humorous misunderstandings resulting from literal interpretations of spoken language (the English language really is very confusing), adjusting to medication and the results of trying to self-manage that medication, and his quest to find a girlfriend and have sex.  By his calculations, there is only one woman in his town who would be available and willing to be his girlfriend and have sex, and he is determined to find her. 

This book is super refreshing.  It is a book about "Aspies" written by an Aspie.  While the story itself may not be true, real-life experience rings from the pages.  It is obvious that some of the struggles are things that the author himself has actually isn't just something written by someone who is fascinated by Aspergers and is trying to get it (that would be me), it is something written by someone who has Aspergers and gets it.    

Also, it is told truthfully.  Berry is clear about how some Aspies' struggles and why.  Why do individuals with Aspergers desire routine so much?  Why to they seem to freeze in social situations?  Why do they just not get social interaction stuff that comes naturally to most neuro-typicals?  Simple - their brains do not work that way.  Routine helps obfuscate confusion and anxiety, as routine signals a predictable future.  Freezing in social situations can happen from sensory over-stimulation and a social interaction moving faster than an Aspie's brain can process.  Not getting social interactions can be a result of taking in so much information about every interaction that the overall meaning is well as from a difficulty with non-verbal communication. 

I love that STIM goes into the technical aspects of Aspergers by showing how those "technical aspects" that lie within scientific definitions actually play out in life.  It is one thing to read about how Aspergers is a difficulty with social interaction, sensory integration, etc and quite another thing to see what that means. 

And all in a quick, easy to read, easily accessible, wonderful book.  I've recommended this book to my psychology professor as reading for class.  I'll recommend it to everyone.  It is wonderful to see a piece of media that portrays someone with a psychological diagnosis in a POSITIVE light that actually sees and portrays them for the PEOPLE they truly are.    I LOVE it!!!!

The Bugly
Honestly, the only complaint that I have is that this book is too short.  I wanted more, to know more about Robert and his backstory, Chloe and her backstory, etc.  It is such an engaging and wonderful read that I just wanted more!


  1. Wow this sounds like such an emotional and moving story, and it sounds incredibly well written, too! I especially like how the journal format is used! I really like the sounds of this one. Great review, Nora!

  2. Thank you so much for such a detailed review. I'm so glad you loved the book!

  3. Thank you so much, Nora. This is one of the best reviews the book has had. I'm so glad you loved it.