REVIEW: Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, Genre: Fiction, Pages: 235, Reading Level: Easy

Book Description:

“In Caitlin’s world, everything is black or white. Things are good or bad. Anything in between is confusing. That’s the stuff Caitlin’s older brother, Devon, has always explained. But now Devon’s dead and Dad is no help at all. Caitlin wants to get over it, but as an eleven-year-old girl with Asperger’s, she doesn’t know how. When she reads the definition of closure, she realizes that is what she needs. In her search for it, Caitlin discovers that not everything is black and white- the world is full of colors- messy and beautiful. Kathryn Erskine has written a must-read gem, one of the most moving novels of the year.”

Holy Cow this book is so stinking good. I just upped my all time favorites list to 20 and I’m not so sure it’s going to stay at 20 for much longer; this one is definitely going on it. Just one warning- you might want to have a box of tissue next to you while you read.

It has been a long time since a book was so good that I finished it in one evening. I started Mockingbird in the afternoon and finished it at 12:45 AM. I could have finished it in one sitting and in a few hours if I hadn’t had kiddos running around and, well, life, but it is a pretty short book and it’s a weekend. Yes, I am that sad- I stayed home on a Saturday night to read. And it was totally worth it! And I usually don’t go out on Saturday nights anyway, but it would have been totally worth it even if I did.

While the book’s main plot is about a father and his daughter, who has Aspberger’s, and how they deal with the loss of another sibling due to a school shooting, there is so much more. It is a book about communication, getting along, overcoming difficult situations, perseverance, etc. And true to its namesake, To Kill a Mockingbird, it portrays a complicated situation through the eyes of a child.

The first thing I liked is that it is named after and inspired by my favorite classic (so far)- To Kill a Mockingbird. The brother and sister relate to those children and sometimes call themselves Jem and Scout. There is even discussion about one of the scenes in the Gregory Peck movie- the scene when Scout diffuses a mob situation. After you read Mockingbird you will understand how that scene is particularly relevant.

The beauty of Mockingbird is while the main character has many issues due to her Aspberger’s, so many problems she has don’t seem to be completely limited to that situation-

…even when I try to Get IT I still don’t Get It. p110

I can’t count how many times I’ve felt that way. This quote actually serves a dual purpose in my review- besides the fact that I’ve felt that way, as I’m sure many others have as well, I guess this one, short quote also sums up the book for me. Not just for Caitlin’s story, but for other things as well- Why did those boys go into a school and shoot innocent children? Why did Caitlin’s mother have to die? Why don’t people want to be Caitlin’s friend? Why are people so unsympathetic? Obviously I could go on and on.

The parts that were the most difficult to read and made me cry the most, were those involving the father. His wife died a couple of years previously, his son shot in a recent school shooting and he is trying to work his way through the pain and mourning with a child who doesn’t understand the finer points of tact and finesse. For example, Caitlin is assigned a project and she decides to do it on the human heart and what happens to it when it is shot.

I don’t know a lot about Aspberger Syndrome, so I am sure there is a lot more about this book that I don’t fully appreciate, but it really is written well and aims to show those of us who don’t have Aspberger’s the point of view of someone who does. While Caitlin is trying so hard to learn empathy, Erskine is teaching the reader the same exact lesson. And she leaves us with the following message:

I hope that, by getting inside her head, readers will understand seemingly bizarre behavior. And I hope that readers will see that, by getting inside someone’s head, really understanding that person, so many misunderstandings and problems can be avoided- misunderstandings and problems that can lead to mounting frustration and, sometimes, even violence. p235

Reviewed by Christina
October 6, 2013

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