Book Review: Strong Female Character by Fern Brady

Strong Female Character by Fern Brady. Reviewed by the Salvesen Mindroom Centre Team.

Date published: February 2023

Paperback price: £8.99

Link to book on Amazon

Reviewer: The Salvesen Mindroom Centre Team

Reviewer expertise: Directly supporting families of children with learning difficulties including autism


What is the book about and who is the book aimed at?

This is an honest reflection from Fern about her life, her relationships and autism. It has adult themes and potential triggers throughout so would be best for a mature or adult audience.

A brief description of the content of the book  

Fern delivers the narrative of her childhood, teens and adult life in a matter-of-fact, down to earth manner which is both funny and sometimes surprising in its honesty. She illustrates how common misdiagnosis is in women and girls and takes the reader through the struggle to navigate education, a career and relationships while grappling to understand her own mind and behaviours.

The audio book is read by Fern and is delivered, at times, with a blunt realism that portrays some incredibly self-aware insights to her life. It is sad, funny and relatable as her experiences are not uncommon. The book is less to increase understanding amongst neurotypical readers, but more for neurodivergent females to know they are not alone.

Fern describes a journey through education, addiction, eating disorder, self-disclosure, to using Google to look for support, diagnosis and inclusion. There are parts that could be difficult to read for someone still on the diagnostic journey, but throughout Fern is open and vulnerable discussing class, race, poverty and homelessness, a basic need to make enough money to get by and the ever-present sectarian divide that is still relevant in Scotland.

In an industry full of assumptions, prejudice and reputation, Fern fought against stereotypes and labels to gain respect from her peers and have a successful career in comedy.

Is the content in line with best practice/research evidence?

This is a personal story, but it does reflect the reality that many women face in trying to gain understanding and recognition of their neurodivergent identity.

It demonstrates the complexity of family relationships not only through the teen years but into adulthood, the risks and missed opportunities to provide support at the right time to Fern, how this impacted on her relationship with her mum and dad and how this is today.

There are great examples of how Fern sees the world through her autism and how this could come across to others - such as black and white thinking, lacking remorse or minimising trauma.

Fern does not see herself as brave, just honest and starkly self-aware. Successfully pursuing her career she highlights there will always be autism, not a superpower but a lifelong part of her that she shares with the reader.

Would the book be helpful to its target reader?  If so, how? Would it be helpful to anyone else?

Firstly, it is a good read. The relatable, self-deprecating Fern allows the reader to see a true and candid version of herself and this could be empowering for autistic young women or parents of autistic teens on their journey.

Some of the content could be triggering and does have an adult theme though not at all sensationalised. Everyone will learn something from reading this whether they are neurotypical, neurodivergent or curious.

There is a lot in the book for those in education and the medical professions which could lead to better understanding of autism in girls and women. It helps break down some of the stereotypical tick boxes of autism and it could be an enlightening read for many.

What is your final, overall opinion on the book?

The reviewers enjoyed the book immensely. It is funny, challenging and thought-provoking. For those with lived experience or experience supporting young neurodivergent females there will be something in this book which the readers will find relatable, although we recognise that everyone’s story is unique to them.

We would recommend the book for readers 18 and over due to some of the adult content.

From a professional perspective, we recognise the demand for this type of literature and ongoing research in the identification, assessment and support for neurodivergent girls and women.