Book Review: The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

Posted December 16, 2013 by LeahAdmin in Reviews / 25 Comments

Book Review: The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida
The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida
Published by Random House on Aug. 2013
Pages: 176
Genres: Non-Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

Written by a thirteen-year-old boy with Autism, The Reason I Jump takes readers into the minds of people who live with this often misunderstood disorder. I bought a copy of this book after hearing a bookseller at Fountain Bookstore rave about it, and I thought it was a fascinating little book.

Naok is unable to speak his ideas clearly, so he uses an alphabet grid (a method of nonvocal communication) to convey his thoughts, which his helper transcribes. Using this method of writing, he answers the questions many people have about what is like to be autistic. He uses a question-and-answer format to address such questions as:

  • Why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly?
  • Why do you ask the same questions over and over?
  • Why don’t you make eye contact when you’re talking?
  • Why do you clap your fingers and hands in front of your face?
  • Why do you repeat certain acts again and again?

Interspersed with these questions and answers are short stories written by Naoki, an aspiring creative writer. These pieces are beautiful little gems; some describe his thoughts about what autism is/where it comes from, and some create metaphors for what it is like to have autism. They are quiet and lovely and just as enlightening as Naoki’s answers to specific questions.

I have had very limited experience interacting with people with autism, but it was interesting to read about the reasons behind some of the behavior I have witnessed. I can only imagine what an incredible read this must be for parents of autistic children. While searching for books to help them understand their autistic son, David Mitchell’s Japanese wife K.A. Yoshida read the original Japanese version of this book, and the two of them worked together to translate it into English. In his introduction, Mitchell writes, “Reading [this book] felt as if, for the first time, our own son was talking to us about what was happening inside his head, through Naoki’s words… It is no exaggeration to say that The Reason I Jump allowed me to round a corner in our relationship with our son.”

Although this book is probably most relevant to parents, teachers, or other caretakers of people with autism, I highly recommend it to anyone. Not only is it fascinating to learn more about this disorder, but Naoki has a fantastic voice and an inspiring message. Although reading about how much he hates himself for the way he makes other people feel uncomfortable was heartbreaking, it was so inspiring to read, later about how beautiful and calming nature is to him. His outlook on the world is breathtaking.  This book is in turns heartbreaking, uplifting, inspiring, fascinating, informative, and poignant.

“I’m guessing that what touches you in nature is the beauty of the trees and the flowers and things. But to us people with special needs, nature is as important as our own lives. The reason is that when we look at nature, we receive a sort of permission to be alive in this world, and our bodies get recharged. However often we’re ignored and pushed away by other people, nature will always give us a good big hug, here inside our hearts.”

This book can easily be read in one sitting; it took me about two hours, and I’m not a fast reader by any means. I think The Reason I Jump should be required reading for anyone who regularly interacts with people with autism, but I would recommend it to anyone interested in expanding the scope of their understanding of humanity.

  • I saw this one on Shannon’s blog, and it looks absolutely fascinating. Great review of this one, Leah!

    • I have this on my reading list for 2014. Your review definitely encourages me to move it up the list!

  • I do want to read this one. We have quite a few autistic kids in our school district and while I am not in direct contact with them, I often find my students asking me questions or making comments that I won’t let go by undiscussed.

    • I think this is a great book for people who work in education!

  • Love your review. You’re right that this one can speak to so many different people and because it’s such a quick book, it should be read by as many people as possible.

    • Absolutely! I think it’s so important to read things like this, that help readers become more empathetic and understanding of people society deems ‘different.’

  • Awesome review. This one is definitely on my list!

  • The more reviews I’ve read on this book the more I feel like I need to read it. Great review,

    • You should! And it’s so short that there’s really no excuse not to read it 🙂

  • I saw an interview with David Mitchell and really want to read this! After reading your review, I’m also going to buy it for my sister, who is a special ed teacher. Thanks.

    • This would made a great gift for her!

  • So many people are raving about this one. I have got to read it – soon!

    • Yes! You’ll love it 🙂

  • Just got a copy of this – your review makes me want to get right to it. fascinating subject.

    • Do it now! It’s such a quick read 🙂

  • I already know 3 people I am going to recommend this to!

    • That’s awesome!

  • That is so cool! Thanks for including the David Mitchell thing! I had no idea!

    • That’s what initially made me interested in this book — Cloud Atlas is one of my favorite books, so I was curious about this Mitchell project!

  • So glad you reviewed this- I’ve heard about it but wasn’t certain if it was general audience or more specific for those who deal with autism. I think hearing what it is like for him would be powerful.

    • I think it’s definitely a great read, even for people who don’t deal with autism.

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  • Thanks for the recommendation, I will consider reading it.

  • I have this in my shelf but I haven’t read it. I do hope I can by next year.