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Review: When My Heart Joins the Thousand (Steiger)

This book is both weird and beautiful. Stanley and Alvie's friendship-turned-relationship is...
A weird and beautiful book about an autistic girl who falls for a disabled boy. It’s slow-paced but worth it in the end.

AUTHOR: A.J. Steiger
SERIES: none
PUBLICATION DATE: February 6, 2018
ISBN: 9780062656476
PAGES: 352
SOURCE: Brooklyn Public Library OverDrive
GENRE: romance, realistic fiction
SETTING: town near Lake Michigan, present-day

SUMMARY: 17-year old Alvie Fitz is on the autism spectrum. She has worked her way through the foster care system and hopes to become an emancipated minor soon. Alvie has her own apartment and a solid job at a local zoo, where she loves spending time with the animals. When Alvie sees Stanley, a boy who walks with a cane, throw his cell phone in a pond, she fishes out the phone and sends an email to the owner.

WHAT I LIKED: I read most of this book on OverDrive audio, then switched to the print book when my audiobook expired. I have no trouble listening to nonfiction books on audio, but for some reason, I have a hard time focusing on fiction audiobooks. The audiobook reader does a great job with Alvie’s dialogue, but for some reason, it grew increasingly annoying the longer I listened. The reader also read Stanley’s dialogue way too slowly, as though he couldn’t think of what to say. Slow speech doesn’t really go with Stanley’s character. I did much better once I switched to print.

This book is both weird and beautiful. Stanley and Alvie’s friendship-turned-relationship is realistically awkward and sweet. I was caught off-guard by Alvie’s…sexual frankness…but it worked for her character. Alvie’s social worker, Dr. Bernhardt, completely drops out of the picture about halfway through the book and is never mentioned again, which I think is a missed opportunity. I was hoping he and Alvie would keep their friendship going; Alvie and Stanley both needed some positive adults in their lives, and Dr. Bernhardt could have fit that role nicely.

The secret Alvie guards for most of the book is heartbreaking. I loved the way that section unfolded and was written.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: Pacing is slow. It took me five weeks to finish this book. Even though I wanted to know what would happen in WMHJTT, I read several other books in-between. For some sections, I read alternating chapters, one from WMHJTT and one from another book I was more interested in. That’s a strategy I used as an English major in college when I wasn’t interested in a book I had to read for a class. It still works to get me through books I’m bored with but want to finish. WMHJTT picks up at about 75%, but it sure did take its time getting there.

THEMES: autism, physical disabilities, poor treatment and misunderstanding of disabilities, abuse, homelessness

THE BOTTOM LINE: A unique and beautiful addition to any high school library.




  • Overall: 4/5
  • Creativity: 5/5
  • Characters: 5/5
  • Engrossing: 3/5
  • Writing: 4/5
  • Appeal to teens: 4/5
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5


  • Language: medium; F-bombs and other profanity is there, but it is not used excessively
  • Sexuality: medium-high; awkward attempts at sex, oral sex, references to erection, reference to rape, possible sexual abuse (nothing graphic)
  • Violence: mild-medium; assault, attempted murder, suicide
  • Drugs/Alcohol: mild; underage characters drink wine

This book appears on my Teen Romance Pinterest Board:

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