Review: Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

8411268Publication Date: April 15, 2010

Synopsis:
Caitlyn is trying to understand life after The Day Everything Fell Apart. Devon is gone and everyone around her is trying to Get It, including her.

Navigating school life is hard enough, but Caitlyn also has Aspergers, making her think and act a little differently than everyone else. As her community tries to cope with a tragedy, she learns what it really means to Get It and how to start the process of Closure.

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Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★

Date Read: October 17, 2018

Thoughts:
I want to start this off by saying that I am not on the spectrum, nor do I know anyone close to me who is. I’ve interacted with people on the spectrum before, but never in a context that forced me to understand what it’s like to live in their world for more than a few hours. Obviously, that means that my interpretation of this book and my experience while reading it will not be able to tell you how accurate it is for someone who might be or is on the spectrum. So, I encourage you to do your research on this before recommending it to someone else, and take what I have to say with a grain of salt.

Yet another book that I read for my Young Adult literature (we’re reading nine books this semester, so that’s why so many reviews are related to that class right now), this is on the youngest side of YA, bordering on Middle Grade. Caitlyn is around ten or eleven, and so I had to remind myself a lot that I was going to see things differently for two reasons – the decade age gap between us, and the fact that I don’t have Aspergers.

Initially, it was hard for me to get used to Caitlyn’s voice. I struggled with how young it was because it’s been quite awhile since I’ve read something Middle Grade from the perspective of a kid that age. Wonder and The One and Only Ivan were books I had picked up on my own and they were fairly different from this. The former was about a kid who had definitely grown up beyond his years because of everything he had to deal with in regard to how he looked and how people treated him; the latter was from the perspective of a gorilla who wanted to be free. I really haven’t read much of this age group since first reading Percy Jackson four years ago (which I’ll have the joy of reading again for class this semester), and my inclination is almost never toward Middle Grade.

I had a hard time with this until I made the decision to let go of all my expectations and all the pre-conceived notions I had. I needed to go into this without comparing it to anything else or expecting it to be something that it wasn’t. And that’s when I began to enjoy this more and understand the characters better.

I think this book tells Caitlyn’s story really well. From what I understand, Erskine wrote this because her daughter or niece has Aspergers, and she wanted to show other people what it was like to live in their shoes. Clearly, that means she’s done her research, and it shows. I learned a lot about how someone with Aspergers might think or react to a situation, and I was beginning to realize that maybe there aren’t a whole lot of differences between them and someone like myself.

The story isn’t complicated. It’s really straightforward, and that’s one of the reasons why it’s so hard to read at times. I won’t go into the details of what happened to cause the tragedy because I think it’s something you should find out for yourself, but it does deal with some topics that pull it onto the YA side of things. The tragedy is something that’s still impactful in today’s age, and it’s still worth discussing. Personally, it was also hard to read because we started this book around the same time that an acquaintance of mine, someone who was quite widely known on my campus, passed away suddenly. But watching Caitlyn deal with her grief and try to understand how closure worked was really helpful as I also went through the process of grieving someone, even if I didn’t know him particularly well.

Something that my friends and I discussed while reading this was how the other characters were developed. Honestly, most of them remained very one-dimensional and didn’t have much growth by the time we got to the end. We agreed that it could have been a side effect of reading from Caitlyn’s perspective, as she’s not someone who notices emotional changes in other people very easily. But it was also a slight problem we had because everyone else felt so static and we wanted more from them.

One of the things about this book that we discussed a lot in class was the clear parallels to To Kill A Mockingbird, from the title of the book to the appearance of the movie within this book. This really takes Atticus’ idea of “living in someone else’s shoes” to a whole new level as we’re in Caitlyn’s head and trying to understand her, as well as the events and people around her. The intertextual nature of the book added to what it had to offer, and gave a new perspective on the classic that so many of us have read in school.

The end of this book was done really well. It was definitely my favorite part of the book because of how it wrapped up the time we had started and clued us in to what Caitlyn’s life would possibly be like after the end of the book. I thought it was very appropriate and gave us a fair amount of the closure that we wanted as readers.

Character(s):
I definitely grew to enjoy Caitlyn’s character and journey more and more as the book went on. Like I said before, I had some trouble getting used to her voice in the beginning, and I still had some trouble by the end, but I think that was just more of the age gap than anything else. She grew a lot over the course of the book and I could appreciate the journey that she went on. I’ve been there before with losing other people in my life, and I found myself able to relate to her in that sense.

Overall:
4 stars. I think it’s a good book if you’re trying to explain Aspergers to someone in middle school, or perhaps someone who has Aspergers. I can’t speak for the accuracy of it, but I encourage you again to do your research before handing it out.

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