This page is dedicated to my book, WINNING AURELIA, which I hope to publish someday soon!
Fourteen-year-old Owen Robertson – autistic, socially clueless, and trapped inside a world of living chess pieces – embarks on a quest to win the heart of the girl across the street. (Think Bobby Fischer meets Don Quixote.)
Child prodigy OWEN ROBERTSON obsesses over two things: chess and AURELIA. She lives across the street. He lives inside a fantasy world of chess.
Diagnosed at the age of ten with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism, Owen imagines himself onto the chess battlefield with warring bishops, castles, and kings. One minute he’s in the living room watching his father play chess with Aurelia’s dad, the next minute, he’s dodging knights and arrows and running for his life. Owen learns to live inside the game. It’s a lot easier than trying to keep up with the other kids on the soccer field. Unfortunately, it’s also a lot more lonely.
Desperate to bridge the two worlds, Owen embarks on a quest to win Aurelia’s love. He figures she can be the queen of the medieval world inside his head. To gain her affection, he steals her hair clips, criticizes her grammar, and sculpts a chess set for her out of wet toilet paper, but nothing goes right. He can’t get his chess strategies to work on human pieces.
In the beginning of ninth grade, Owen struggles in school. He’s bullied by the other kids, and Aurelia doesn’t seem to want to have anything to do with him. Just when Owen thinks things can’t get worse, his world is turned upside down. There’s been a car accident. Owen’s father has died. Devastated and afraid, Owen explains his Asperger’s to VARDELL, a popular boy from school who seems to understand Owen and takes him under his wing. He offers to help Owen win Aurelia only to wind up falling for her himself. Owen feels overwhelmed by this betrayal and begins to withdraw even more than before.
Over the course of a tumultuous year, Aurelia’s father, MR. NASSER, becomes a surrogate father and chess coach to Owen. He helps Owen to enter a major chess tournament. Normally hunched over his precious chess computer, this is the first time Owen has really played against other human beings. Not only does Owen win the tournament, but he begins to win Aurelia over with his eccentric but sweet ways. At the end-of-year dance, VARDELL, inspired by the depth of Owen’s affection for Aurelia, steps aside and vows to help Owen finish his quest. With Vardell's help, Owen finally feels Aurelia reaching out to him. Now he’s sure he’ll die if he can’t reach back. On the last day of school, Owen freezes, but Vardell comes to his rescue, literally pushing him over to talk to Aurelia and tell her how he feels. He tells her about his condition. "It's a long story," he says. Aurelia smiles, touches his arm, and tells him she has the whole summer to hear all about it.
After thousands of chess games, Owen is finally ready to make his first move...
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