Puddle Jumping by Amber L. Johnson
June 29, 2014
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance (NA)
When it comes to love there’s no such thing as conventional.
Everyone thinks Colton Neely is special.
Lilly Evans just thinks he’s fascinating.
Once friends when they were younger, their bond is cut short due to her accident prone nature and they go their separate ways. Years later, they meet again and Lilly learns that there is something special about the boy she once knew, but she has no idea what it all means. And she’s not sure if she’s ready to find out.
When he walks through the corridor of her school the first day of her senior year, she knows that it’s time to get to know the real Colton Neely. The more she learns, the deeper she falls.
Their friendship grows into love, even as Colton does not express it in words. But one decision threatens to break down the world that Lilly has tried so hard to integrate into and she must figure out if the relationship can survive if they are apart.
This book includes mature subject matter that may not be appropriate for readers under the age of 18.
To everyone else, Colton Neely is special. Different. Strange. He’s the boy who doesn’t act with the wild abandon of other children, the teenager who is too literal and polite and reserved. But to Lilly Evans, he’s not special or different or strange. He’s extraordinary. He’s everything.
I know I read this back when it was fanfiction, and I know I loved it then, but the truth is that I don’t really remember it. I guess that’s what happens when you read twenty different chapters from twenty different stories every night. So when I picked up the book, I got to fall in love with Puddle Jumping all over again.
Lilly’s different than other teenagers, even though she is just like them. For all her insecurities and living in the moment, she’s something more, someone who doesn’t question her emotions so much as she lives them. It’s her sense of adventure in everyday things that connects her to Colton when they are children, and it’s that same characteristic that never hesitates to simply accept who he is.
When Lilly learns that Colton has Asperger’s, she isn’t worried about what other will think, at least not in the way one might expect. She’s more worried about whether their connection can be sustained, if the condition she refuses to research will prevent them from being friends or take away the natural pull she feels whenever he’s near. And when he shows up for the first day of school her senior year, she’s overwhelmed not only by the now obvious difference between them but also the strength of her feelings for him.
What makes the story beautiful, though, is that everything Lilly does, encouraging Colton to be himself while helping him to navigate an altogether strange social world, is that she doesn’t consciously do it for him. She does it because of him, because she’s fascinated by him and cares about him and truly wants to understand his mind. She wants other people to see him as she does, this straightforward, socially inept, beautiful boy who — as it turns out — simply wants to be near her.
Colton’s feelings for Lilly aren’t spelled out in a conventional way but in paintings and coached gestures and simple unromantic statements that encompass more feelings and love than any standard declarations ever could. That he requires instructions and explanations to understand why flowers on Valentine’s day are important is inconsequential when it’s clear that he wants those cues so he won’t fail her. There are flaws and hurt feelings and moments so simple and profound that words in black and white hardly seem fitting to explain the complex pull and emotions.
But when Colton calls her his Lilly long before the word “love” passes his lips, it’s clear that even the simplest of love stories carries all the weight of the human heart. The social norms may be foreign to him, but his attempts to be what is expected of a boyfriend show just how normal he is, and that may just be the sweetest story I’ve ever read. To say that Puddle Jumping is a love story about a boy with Asperger’s would be to sell it short. It’s about falling in love and finding quiet and understanding a person more than an expectation, about differences that don’t seem so different when they’re just teenagers who want the same thing, about there being someone for everyone at any age, with any diagnosis, and with every bit of joy and sadness and passion and warmth that is the inherently human journey.