The Extraordinary Colors of Auden Dare (TECAD) is one of the best books I’ve read in quite a long time. Unlike books like Wonder, it doesn’t just depict the life of a disabled kid who’s initially bullied but then later becomes accepted by society. Instead, it tells an action-packed love story (although it is one between a boy and his robot!) in only 300 pages without ever feeling like any part of it is unnecessary. The book creatively incorporates many different genres, and that makes it very unique.
TECAD tells the story of Auden Dare, a boy who is color-blind. He lives during a time when people (including his dad) are fighting over water, the precious liquid we’ve used for so long. When he is forced to move with his mom to a house called Unicorn Cottage (the place where his uncle used to live before his recent death), he, as you may have guessed, is not too happy. At the cottage though, he soon discovers a lot of secrets about his uncle’s past. (Remember the uncle! He is going to be very important later on). Auden visits Trinity College, where his uncle used to work, and notices that his uncle’s room is completely unorganized and messy, making him question if his uncle really did die from a “small heart attack”.
At his new school, Auden meets a girl named Vivi, who becomes his best friend in just a few weeks. They soon hang out with each other and have sleepovers! But what they also discover together is that both of them know Auden’s uncle, and used to play with him. It seems Auden has some company! Auden tells Vivi about a file he discovered in his uncle’s office called “Project Rainbow” (PR). After searching and scavenging, trying to find out what PR is, they soon discover something mind-boggling—a robot hidden underground named Paragon, who has no memory of himself. Auden and Vivi both know their uncle made it, but why? As their experiences with the robot grow and grow, they themselves go through many emotions, including feelings of surprise, anger, love, and hatred during the simple process of learning just who this robot is.
The reason TECAD is so exciting is that the book is always leaving you hanging at every part, making you want to read it nonstop. Who is this robot? What is Project Rainbow? What is happening to Auden’s dad in the Water Wars? All these little pieces of suspense lead up to one of the best finales in a book I’ve ever read, with so many twists and turns that you think it’s an Agatha Christie book!
Another reason I like the book is because Auden is a unique character. Unlike other books about kids with disabilities, this one doesn’t focus on his color-blind vision. Instead of focusing on it as a problem, and then showing later how the problem doesn’t matter, and that he is unique and special (yes, Wonder I’m talking to you!), it focuses on the disability as a perspective on the world. Auden always feels the whole world is black for him, not literally, but also metaphorically. The book tells of looking at the world differently. This not only makes the book more exciting but also much more emotional. Why did I find it emotional? Because I’m a kid with no disabilities. So instead of focusing on a disability I can’t relate to, the book focuses on a perspective everyone can relate to. When we feel there’s no hope in this world. When we think everything is lost. This idea of showing how having a disability shapes the way one sees or perceives the world is in my opinion much more creative than just talking about the disability.
The friendship between Auden, Vivi, and the robot is also fantastic. Sure, there’s some cheesy dialogue and embarrassing scenes, but it’s suitable for the most part. Mainly because Auden never likes the robot at first. It takes him almost the whole book to truly love the robot. That’s what a good relationship is in my opinion. One where it doesn’t start off well at first, but then later turns out to be one of the most surprising and emotional relationships of all time!
TECAD is one of my favorite books not only because the writing is descriptive, and the dialogue is pitch-perfect, but also because the very idea behind the story makes for an emotional, suspenseful, surprising novel that is exciting from start to finish. It’s a book I recommend everyone should read, especially during this quarantine.
The Extraordinary Colors of Auden Dare by Zillah Bethell. Feiwel & Friends, 2018. Buy the book here and support Stone Soup in the process!