Title: A Weekend with Oscar
Author: Robyn Bavati
Publisher: Walker Books
Published: 7th July 2021
Synopsis: A moving #LoveOzYA novel about loss, first love and being there for your family, no matter what.
Sixteen-year-old Jamie lives with his mum and his younger brother Oscar, who has Down syndrome. Though Jamie is still grieving the loss of his dad, life starts to look up when he meets Zara, the new girl at school. When their mum goes away for the weekend, Jamie volunteers to look after Oscar. But when the weekend is over and their mother doesn’t return, Jamie faces the toughest challenge of his life.
- An ideal text to use with lower secondary students in the classroom to explore issues of empathy, compassion and living with a sibling with a disability.
- This touching story is a perfect way to open up a conversation about grief.
Sixteen-year-old Jamie, his mother and his brother, Oscar, who has Down Syndrome, are still grieving after the loss of their father and husband. Jamie and his mother are dedicated to helping Oscar and being there for him. Jamie is also determined to make sure he can live his life whilst being there for his family. When their mother heads off to visit a relative for a weekend, she leaves Oscar with Jamie. But when she doesn’t arrive home when she says she does, Jamie is faced with the prospect of life without his mother – and life looking after Oscar alone, without any idea of how they will manage things. At the same time, Jamie is navigating school and a new friendship with Zara, who has just started school, and has a younger sister on the autism spectrum.
When writing this story about siblings of disabled people like Oscar and Hayley, who has autism, Robyn Bavati talked to people with Down Syndrome and their families, as well as doing research, to further understand what Down Syndrome is and how, like any disability, it is different for every person with Down Syndrome or a disability. Oscar and Hayley are their own people – they just happen to have disabilities, and they have loving families who would do anything for them. The power of Jamie and Zara’s love for their siblings shines through, but we also get a taste of what reality is like for them, and how they handle people are ableist and make fun of them and their families.
What I liked about this #LoveOzYA novel is that Jamie didn’t speak for Oscar. He supported him and explained things to him, and showed us what Oscar’s life was like as an observer, but we were also able to gain an understanding of Oscar, who was as much a main character as Jamie. They both had a voice, and they had the support of Zara’s family as well as the story went on, which was nice, as it showed that there are always going to be people out there who can help you or have an understanding of what you are going through even if it feels like you are all alone and isolated, with nobody but your family to understand what you are going through.
This book allows people to gain some understanding of invisible disabilities, the people affected and their families, and also looks at one way a disability might affect someone, whilst acknowledging that there is a spectrum for various disabilities. It’s about a specific experience – that of siblings trying to navigate life for themselves but also their family and disabled sibling. At the heart of the novel though, is a story about grief and healing, and the challenges we face in life that are beyond schedules, school, doctors. Those moments and events that impact us all, whoever we are. Family, loss and love are universal – things that we all encounter.
Robyn’s note at the end explains her research and process and acknowledges the fluidity of language used to talk about disability, stating that she acknowledges that there may have been linguistic changes in the time she has written and published as well, and provides a list of autism and Down Sydnrome resources for readers, as well as thanking those families and people living with Down Syndrome that she consulted to make the experiences of Jamie and Oscar as accurate as possible.
Books like this can help us grow empathy, and I would love to read some more #OwnVoices books about disability, as their voices can contribute a great deal to our understanding of the social model of disability and how accessibility or lack thereof can impact how disabled people like Oscar, and like Hayley, interact with the world around them.