Joining a trend in young readers literature, "Rogue" (Penguin, $16.99) by Lyn Miller-Lachmann examines a young girl's response to having Asperger's Syndrome. Those with this form of autism have highly-developed intellects but poor social skills.
Kiara is a seventh grader who is being home schooled because she has had fights at public school with people who made fun of her. She lives with her father, a former band guitarist. Her mother, also a member of the band, has gone to Toronto to further her singing career. Kiara desperately wants her parents to live together again.
Lacking real friends, Kiara has made friends with what she calls Mr. Internet, constantly seeking answers for her questions online. She also has a vivid imaginary life, as Rogue, a mutant X-men character.
When a new family moves in across the street, Kiara tries to befriend the oldest boy, Chad. At first he rejects her, then when she begins filming his BMX stunts and introducing him to a local track and other BMX stars, he befriends her.
Unfortunately, Chad is the carrier of the meth his parents make, and he draws Kiara into that world. To keep Chad's friendship, she deliberately fails her exams so she will not have to leave for the summer and live with her mother. Confused about everything, she attends a party at the track with Chad, who gets drunk.
When the meth house explodes and both boys are sent off to hospitals for treatment, Kiara learns the hard way about trying to figure everything out through computers and about keeping secrets. She also learns new ways to cope with what she has come to recognize as Asperger's.
The book has a little too much in too little space. The meth production subplot undermines what might otherwise be a strong inside look at this disease which is increasingly drawing public attention.