I don't like how photos of my Kindle turn out. So instead, here's the cats curled up and vaguely rose-shaped. Photo by Kate Ota 2020
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion is a romcom (from 2013) set in Melbourne, Australia. Don, the POV character, is a man with what is hinted as Asperger’s (now we’d call it Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD), however this is never clearly laid out. Don has had trouble finding a life partner and has few friends but enjoys his work as a genetics researcher and professor. He creates a questionnaire for women to help him find his perfect wife. He’s very strict with what he considers the right answers, but still gets hundreds of responses. His friend goes through responses for him, and sends him Rosie, a woman who meets none of Don’s expectations. Don and Rosie get close over a project to find her biological father, and eventually fall in love (not a spoiler—it’s a romcom!)
I liked that a certain womanizing character was called out at the end, though he didn’t get enough comeuppance in my opinion. I also liked Rosie, who stood up for herself and was far from a helpless or clumsy leading lady.
I had many dislikes for this book, however. The romance never really gelled for me. I was SHOCKED, despite knowing the genre requires a happily ever after, that they got together at the end. I felt like I was watching a couple on Love is Blind and wanted to shout, “Don’t say yes, girl!” This is clearly not the reaction I was intended to have to a romcom. I disliked Don, mostly because of all the things Gene had influenced about him and his view of women. And yes, that was the character arc, but it was very hard to root for Don, like a reader is supposed to, when the arc is less of a smooth curve and more of a sudden leap. I disliked how Don commented on the BMI of everyone he met (and as a biologist, he should know BMI is often misleading because it doesn’t account for muscle being heavier than fat.) I also easily predicted the results of the search for Rosie’s father, taking a lot of fun out of it.
My largest complaint is that the author doesn’t have ASD himself, nor did he base Don on anyone who was diagnosed as ASD. It felt very wishy-washy, trying to be able to claim representation while also being able to deny it if there were any problems. I read reviews from people with ASD and they varied from seeing Don as a caricature to feeling like he was fairly close. If the author was part of that community and claimed to only be representing how he himself operates/sees the world, I’d be totally fine with it. As is, this aspect of the book leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Overall, it wasn’t my favorite read. I did finish it though, for my work’s Diversity and Inclusion Book Club. You would enjoy this book if you felt Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory was the type of ASD rep you’re looking for. You may also enjoy it if you’re looking for a romcom told from only the male POV or if you love a good paternity hunt. You may not like it if you are looking for more modern representations of people with ASD, if you get angry at misogynistic characters, or if you want a spicier heat level in your romcoms.
Have you read The Rosie Project or the rest of the series? Do you have ASD and did you feel Don was accurate representation? Let’s discuss in the comments!