"Hadley-Hadley Benson,” by Jody Wind Durfee, is the tender story of an unlikely friendship.
Sixteen-year-old Jaxon Quayle wants to be friends with Maddi Bensen, the cute new girl who just moved in next door, but there are a few complications. First, there is Maddi’s twin brother, Hadley, who has Asperger’s syndrome and is almost always at her side; then there are the boys Jaxon hangs out with who think Maddi’s hot, too; and there is also the fact that every time he tries to talk to her his mouth gets dry and his hands get sweaty.
Jaxon and his family are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Maddi’s family is not. As Jaxon’s friendship with Maddi develops, he is forced to get to know her twin — and to his surprise, he finds himself growing to like Hadley.
The story, which is set in Burley, Idaho, could take place in any predominately rural LDS town. The efforts of neighborhood Mormons to introduce the Benson family to the LDS Church are woven into the story in a way that is natural and not in your face.
Written in first person, the book gives a glimpse into the workings of a 16-year-old male brain. The interactions and dialogue feel real. The main characters are not static; they learn some important lessons about love and forgiveness.
Hadley is portrayed in a way that honors him as a person, not just someone with a disability. Although the story concludes in a rather unexpected way, it is satisfying and full of hope.
From a family values perspective, the book contains no offensive language or inappropriate sexual behavior. It was written with LDS teens in mind, but it’s a book the whole family might enjoy reading together.
Rosemarie Howard lives in a 100-year-old house on Main Street, Springville, Utah. She enjoys creating multimedia projects. Her website is at dramaticdimensions.com.