5 incredible fictional characters with ADHD (+4 who are not diagnosed but also totally have it)
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October is ADHD Awareness Month, a month dedicated to a greater awareness of what ADHD is (it’s so much more than hyperactivity!), who has it (not just little boys), his strengths and its weaknesses. I might be biased by my love of reading and writing books, but I think portraying in fiction is one of the best ways to improve that understanding.
We all have a basic need to feel seen, and recognizing ourselves in the stories we read (and watch) can be a powerful way to do this. For people with ADHD, it can make a world of difference to see yourself in the characters you love, especially when those characters are protagonists. On a personal level, I have spent a lot of time in my life feeling like I failed because of lost keys, missed homework, broken valuables, and the like. When I could see myself reflected in a protagonist I loved, driven by similar challenges and heroic qualities that proved necessary to save the day, it also helped me see myself in a better light.
But portraying ADHD isn’t just for people with ADHD. We could all benefit from a better understanding of ADHD symptoms and how they can manifest, as well as a better understanding of the forces that can arise from them! Personally, my story is littered with moments of friction caused by people who insisted that I did not have this learning disability that I was diagnosed with, due to their misunderstanding of what it is. ADHD and what it should look like. When we understand ADHD better, we can cope better with weaknesses and make room for talent as well.
While there is still work to be done, the portrayal of ADHD in fiction has come a long way! Here are five incredible fictional characters with ADHD, and four characters who aren’t diagnosed with guns but certainly show the symptoms.
5 characters with ADHD
Percy Jackson, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
The OG of ADHD representation! If you haven’t read Riordan’s essay on how his experience with his son’s diagnosis of ADHD and dyslexia, and the lack of characters he can relate to, made Riordan want to create a protagonist. with the same challenges, worth reading. Percy is a wonderful example of representation because Percy’s learning disability challenges are evident on the page, but they are also intrinsically linked to what makes him a superpower.
Olivier, Welcome to the school of superheroes by Gracie Dix
In the teenage superhero world of Ten, pretty much everyone has a learning disability. As they discover and celebrate each other’s strengths and weaknesses, they also take down dinosaurs, dragons, and villains through problem solving, teamwork, and courage. A mid-level adventure written by an author with ADHD herself (and wrote these novels while still in high school) – learn more about Dix’s own journey with the learning disability here.
Alexander, Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
To be honest, this book had so many wonderful representations of diversity that I kind of forgot this one! But it’s true – Alex, the first son of the first woman president, political ace and romantic hero, also suffered from ADHD. He’s impulsive, has a tendency to overstimulate, and has trouble connecting with his feelings at times – and all of this makes him such an unpredictable character that’s a lot of fun to watch.
Emilie, Every little spark by Pablo Cartaya
Amid struggling to fit in and pay attention in school due to her ADHD, this heartfelt mid-level novel follows Emilia as she tries to reconnect with her father after returning from deployment. With everything seemingly against her, she’s never needed her father so much, but it seems that he locked himself in the family car shop when he instead devoted himself to fixing an old car. But as Emilia takes a look at him each day, he slowly begins to show her the job he does and allow her to help.
Day before, Act your age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert
During my research for this article, it became clear that the novel genre is an unrecognized power in the neurodiverse representation space, and this series is a prime example of that. Talia has a reputation for being a hot mess, and she continues to strengthen it with new disasters. At the start of the novel, she gave up. At least until she becomes determined to help B&B owner Jacob, who has broken his arm but certainly doesn’t want help. Their opposing natures instantly put them at odds, but Eve’s natural charisma and charm just might win him over again.
Due to a clutch scene, this even prompted some readers to seek their own diagnoses. Hibbert herself is a neurodiverse, and ideas from her experiences with autism are also evident on the page, along with ideas from ADHD friends.
4 characters with ADHD symptoms
Scott, Scott Pilgrim’s precious little life by Bryan O’Malley
Scott has a major case of existential boredom at the start of the series. Prone to unbridled imagination and extravagant sidebars, he just doesn’t seem to know what to do with his life, or even keep a job. But then he is swept away by Ramona Flowers, and to win her he has to fight his Seven Evil Exes. Fortunately, a life of video games prepared him perfectly for this precise moment. Scott’s tendency to forget things, to lose things, to lose sight of what he is doing entirely, and to let himself be drawn into deep fits of the imagination – all of this makes an excellent portrait of ADHD.
Jeanne, Dread nation by Justina Ireland
In this dark historical fantasy, the civil war has turned into a war against the dead, and the zombie fight continues as the country attempts to rebuild itself. As a student at the Baltimore School of Combat, Jane McKeene is both a high-level soldier against the living dead and a constant source of trouble for Miss Preston, who runs the school. Rebellious, impulsive, impatient and spirited as they come, it’s easy to justify Jane’s ADHD diagnosis.
Myriam, Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig
At the start of this gritty series, Miriam Black isolated herself and made do with her ability to see exactly when a person was going to die – she long ago gave up being able to change what she sees. Miriam was a particularly fun protagonist for me because she’s so naturally chaotic and insanely impulsive with a clearly addictive personality, but she’s also intuitive and a natural solution to improvisation problems. Living with ADHD, it all ringed true on a deep level.
Ayoola, My sister, the serial killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
In this dark tale of sibling rivalry, protagonist Korede and her sister Ayoola are completely at odds. Korede is cautious, cautious and calculating in the way she manages her life, conscientiously carrying out her job as a nurse and keeping her distance from the doctor she longs for. Meanwhile, Korede is fearless and impulsive, and finds herself in one sticky spot after another as she casually confronts one ill-chosen lover after another, only to find herself killing them – in self-defense, of course. Ayoola may not be the brightest portrayal of ADHD, but her myopia, impulsiveness, and even charisma are all traits strongly associated with learning disability.
When ADHD is portrayed in fictional characters, it’s good for everyone. Those of us with ADHD get the validation to be seen – as well as the relief that we too can be a protagonist in our lives! Neurotypical readers gain an understanding of the ways ADHD can manifest itself in very different ways and move beyond stereotypes to see the value of other brain types functioning.
With more representation, we can build a better understanding so that we can celebrate the gifts that come with ADHD not only during ADHD Awareness Month, but throughout the year. Taking one of these books is a great place to start.