Today’s category–sapphic books about neurodiverse characters–might as well be one of the Book Unicorn categories because there still aren’t that many.
In case you aren’t familiar with the term: a neurodiverse person (also called neurodivergent or neuroatypical) is someone whose brain works differently compared to neurotypical people. They might be on the autistic spectrum, have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), dyslexia, dyspraxia, or Tourette Syndrome.
For this category, please try to find a book with a positive and realistic portrayal of neurodiversity that doesn’t shame or pity the neuroatypical character but sees neurodiversity of a natural and normal variation of human neurology.
Read up on the rules of the Sapphic Reading Challenge
If you are new to the Sapphic Reading Challenge, read up on the rules and download your PDF so you can keep track of the books you read this year. Remember that you can either read one of the 15 books listed below or pick another sapphic book featuring a protagonist with a disability.
15 sapphic novels featuring a neurodiverse character
I put together a list of 15 novels featuring neuroatypical characters. I hope you’ll find one you enjoy.
Worthy of Love by Quinn Ivins (character with ADHD)
Nadine Bayani was at the top of her game. The brilliant, ruthless lawyer was in line to be White House chief of staff—until she confessed to campaign finance crimes that cost her party the election.
Now Nadine’s out of prison, broke, hated by millions, and stuck doing a menial retail job in rural Virginia where she barely earns enough to survive.
Bella Clarke has worked at Overstock Oasis since she flunked college. She wants to go back to school, but secretly doubts she’s smart enough. At least she’s not as clueless as her boss, who just accidentally hired the woman responsible for a national scandal.
However, Nadine seems to be nothing like the crook portrayed in the media, and Bella is drawn to her troubled, standoffish co-worker. As they grow closer, Nadine introduces Bella to the delights of Filipino food and opens Bella’s eyes to her own possibilities.
Before long, about the only thing harder to make sense of than Nadine’s past is their powerful chemistry together. Is Bella really falling for a woman who caused so much harm? And even if she is, how can two such different people ever be a match?
Learning Curves by Ceilie Simkiss (character with ADHD)
Elena Mendez has always been career-first; with only two semesters of law school to go, her dream of working as a family lawyer for children is finally within reach. She can’t afford distractions. She doesn’t have time for love.
And she has no idea how much her life will change, the day she lends her notes to Cora McLaughlin.
A freelance writer and MBA student, Cora is just as career-driven as Elena. But over weeks in the library together, they discover that as strong as they are apart, they’re stronger together. Through snowstorms and stolen moments, through loneliness and companionship, the two learn they can weather anything as long as they have each other–even a surprise visit from Elena’s family.
From solitude to sweetness, there’s nothing like falling in love. College may be strict…but when it comes to love, Cora and Elena are ahead of the learning curve.
Basics of Spellcraft (Ember Academy for Young Witches: Book 1) by L.C. Mawson (character with ADHD)
I should have known something was wrong when my weird aunt arrived in town just as I started getting killer headaches.
But how was I supposed to know that it was a sign of repressed magic? Or that an ancient witch had escaped her tomb and sent demons after me? Demons who cursed my mother.
I wanted to stay with her, even if she wouldn’t wake, but I was sent to Ember Academy for Young Witches instead. Somewhere the demons hopefully can’t get me.
I need to find a way to lift the curse, but there’s a block on both my magic and memories that everyone is refusing to lift.
A block that might hold the answers as to why an ancient witch is after me in the first place.
If I can figure her out, maybe I can figure out this curse.
My teachers don’t want me digging into it, worried about the danger. But I don’t care.
My mother was cursed because of me, and I’m not going to rest until she’s safe again.
The Words Shimmer by Jenn Matthews (dyslexic character)
Yorkshire anatomy lecturer Ruby Clark considers her life low-maintenance. She teaches at the local university, has two well-behaved teenage daughters, and what she doesn’t know about human anatomy isn’t worth knowing. Unfortunately, that knowledge doesn’t stretch to plants, and she’s been asked to help out on a school garden project.
Being a paramedic doesn’t do Melissa Jackson’s back or knees any favours, so she’s looking into university courses to try a less strenuous line of her work. But the brash, proudly out, down-to-earth woman’s biggest challenge is keeping her dyslexia a secret. That, and living down the stigma that follows her when people find out.
A university open day throws the two women into each other’s orbits. When Mel, an expert green thumb, makes a few helpful suggestions on Ruby’s garden project, Ruby convinces her to team up to make it a success.
Personality-wise, they couldn’t be less compatible. Mel’s brazen attitude, cocky jokes, and affinity with earthworms immediately rub the hyper-professional, straight-laced Ruby the wrong way. Can they ever find common ground?
Little X by Elna Holst (dyslexic character)
Malmö, Sweden, 1996
Sofie Andersson is a dyslectic born under the star sign Aries, who drives the local buses for a living. Her hobbies include knitting terrible hats and intermittent lesbianism. This December she is on the point of moving into her first flat of her own, figuring out her place in the world, when an instant attraction to a handsome stranger leads her to question everything she’s taken for granted.
The Outside by Ada Hoffmann (character on the autistic spectrum)
Autistic scientist Yasira Shien has developed a radical new energy drive that could change the future of humanity. But when she activates it, reality warps, destroying the space station and everyone aboard.
The AI Gods who rule the galaxy declare her work heretical, and Yasira is abducted by their agents. Instead of simply executing her, they offer mercy – if she’ll help them hunt down a bigger target: her own mysterious, vanished mentor.
With her homeworld’s fate in the balance, Yasira must choose who to trust: the gods and their ruthless post-human angels, or the rebel scientist whose unorthodox mathematics could turn her world inside out.
Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde (character on the autistic spectrum)
Charlie likes to stand out. She’s a vlogger and actress promoting her first movie at SupaCon, and this is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star Reese Ryan. When internet-famous cool-girl actress Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.
Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with her best guy friend Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about a fan contest for her favorite fandom, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.
Two Hearts Alone by Harper Bliss (character on the autistic spectrum)
In the small town of Donovan Grove, Anna Gunn’s life is organized just the way she likes it: work from home, walks with her dog, Friday night drinks at the bar.
But Anna’s strict routine is challenged when the local bookstore is taken over by city slicker, Zoe Perez.
Will Anna let Zoe into her life, despite the major disruption she will have to tolerate?
And can Zoe look past Anna’s eccentricity and embrace her unconventional behavior?
Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant (character on the autistic spectrum)
Seven years ago the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a mockumentary, bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend.
It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a tragedy; others have called it a hoax.
Now, a new crew has been assembled to investigate. And they’ll discover that whatever is down there is definitely no joke.
Leaving’s Not the Only Way to Go by Kay Acker (character on the autistic spectrum)
Lauren Ashburn left a promising job to help her family in Vermont take care of her dying father. Now that he’s gone, Lauren has every intention of returning to her old life—the vibrant, successful one her father had always expected her to have. But Lauren discovers that she feels adrift without his strict guidance.
Georgia Solomon designs homes for others. But as a bisexual autistic woman, she rarely feels at home herself. When her best friend dies suddenly, leaving her alone with their young daughter, her little slice of happiness vanishes. Now Georgia finds herself struggling to navigate a world that doesn’t understand her at all.
Lauren and Georgia clash at a disastrous work meeting, but Georgia’s daughter Hannah pulls them together despite themselves. As they discover new possibilities and priorities for the future, can they make room for love? Or will they have to leave each other behind—in order for them both to move forward?
Devon’s Island by SI Clarke (character on the autistic spectrum)
Gurdeep is an engineer and a soldier. Georgie’s a food scientist. One is pragmatic with a tough outer shell; the other’s an optimist, a person of ideas and compassion. In the span of a single afternoon, the couple find themselves in charge of planning a self-sustaining colony on Mars. Together, they’re humanity’s last hope for survival.
They have 160 slots to fill with experts from all over the world as they set about designing an all-new society with its own government, economy, and culture – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Among those chosen for the mission is Devon, an autistic scientist with a unique skill set who finds life on Earth strange and alienating. Maybe a whole new planet is exactly what’s needed.
With 1,114 days until the launch, excitement and tensions run high. Earth’s second chance hangs in the balance. Between strict genetic requirements and the dangers of the dystopian almost-present, will everyone make it to the final countdown?
Fitting In by Amanda Radley (character on the autistic spectrum)
Heather Bailey has been in charge of Silver Arches, the prestigious London shopping centre, for several years. Financial turmoil brings a new investor to secure the future and Heather finds herself playing office politics with the notoriously difficult entrepreneur Leo Flynn. Walking a fine line between standing her ground and being willing to accept change, Heather has her work cut out for her.
When Leo demands that his daughter is found a job at Silver Arches; things become even harder.
Scarlett Flynn has never fit in. Not in the army, not in her father’s firm, not even in her own family. So starting work at Silver Arches won’t be any different, will it?
A Marine Awakening by Jax Meyer (character on the autism spectrum)
In 1998, introverted Cameron Warren is focused on being a model Marine and surviving the social isolation of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Navigating the policy and finding allies is harder than she expected, but she’s determined to complete her enlistment period and return to college.
Meanwhile, gregarious military kid Sharon Rodriguez knows connections are critical to navigate the unspoken rules of the Marine Corps. She’s confident in her ability to enjoy the casual flings she’s accustomed to while pursuing the 20 year career she desires.
When Sharon convinces Cam to attend a party with her, neither realizes their lives are about to become more complicated than they planned for. How hard will they need to fight for a love that must remain in the shadows?
The Rules of Love by Cara Malone (character on the autism spectrum)
Max Saddler has never been in love.
She knows exactly what it looks like – she’s spent years studying the phenomenon in other people, but her Asperger syndrome makes it far too anxiety-provoking to attempt such a thing in her own life.
Instead, she focuses exclusively on academics. She’s 23 years old, starting grad school, and perfectly content to ignore the world beyond her textbooks. That is, until she meets Ruby Satterwhite, who makes Max want to give love one more shot.
Ruby is the consummate social butterfly – sorority president, extracurricular list a mile long, and stunning to boot. In short, she’s way out of Max’s league, and on top of it all, she kind of hates Max for how she blurts out whatever’s on her mind, no matter how blunt.
But when they’re thrown grudgingly together for a group project in their first class, the heavens open up and the sparks begin to fly. There’s only one problem – Ruby’s still pining for her perfect ex-girlfriend.
Sculpting Her Heart by Annette Mori (character on the autism spectrum)
To be released in April 2021
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