Words like “insane”, “psychopath”, “nuts”, “idiot”, and “psycho” are frequently thrown around both in real life and fiction. Their ableism is usually ignored by the characters participating in the dialogue, giving the reader the impression that, hey, referring to or calling someone an ableist slur is a-okay!
(Spoiler alert: It’s not.)
Now, we’re all guilty of ableist slurs, even mentally ill, non-abled people such as myself too. It’s a part of everyday vocabulary for most people that people don’t see anything wrong with it. So while most people don’t see anything wrong with casually calling someone a “psychopath” (looking at you, popular allocishet white Twitter feminists), it’s extremely inappropriate to do so. Which is why I was finally glad to find a book (NOT NOW, NOT EVER) that finally incorporates a character calling another character out on her ableist language.
This book isn’t out til November so I’ll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum here, but the jist of the situation is: Ever Lawrence is talking to her socially awkward new friend, Leigh. After Leigh pulls a crazy stunt in front of the whole crowd, Ever calls her “an insane person.” Leigh casually calls her out on her ableism with “Don’t be ableist. I already told you, Ever. I’m awkward.” Without the call-out becoming a lengthy preachy moment and taking over the book, Leigh calls out Ever’s ableism succinctly and gets the point across.
I wasn’t expecting something like this, but I’m relieved to finally see it in a YA book. So often, ableism and related microaggressions perpetuated in these stories aren’t called out. I’m not saying a character has to be this shiny, flawless social justice warrior, but there’s a difference between writing imperfect characters and supporting the various -isms our society suffers under. So far in my reading of this ARC? It does the former.
So from one mentally ill reader with a degenerative spine, thank you, Lily Anderson. I hope more writers follow your example.