Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

Released April 15, 2010.

In this small novel, Erskine has combined the tragedy of a school shooting with the unique voice of Asperger’s syndrome.  Caitlin’s older brother, Devon, has been killed in a school shooting along with others.  As Caitlin struggles to understand the emotions around her and the feelings she herself has, she has to do it for the first time without her brother helping her.  She tries to do it without flapping her hands, without burying herself in her father’s sweater, but she does retreat to her safe places like under the dresser in Devon’s room.  Her world is black and white, just like her award-winning drawings, color only confuses things.  But as the days go by, Caitlin begins to connect with other people in new ways and perhaps through her own literal understanding of things she just might find closure and help others find it too.

I don’t feel that I can encapsulate this book in a paragraph.  It is so much larger than I can describe, so much more profound and uplifting.  Erskine has taken two ideas that seem very divergent and created something amazing from them.  The two become more vital and important joined into a single book than they would have been separately.  Caitlin’s own grief is explored in such a literal and detached way that it becomes even more painful to witness.  Her inability to speak her emotions hands them over to the reader to feel for her.  We all become a part of her syndrome and feel it to our bones.

Through the lens of Caitlin readers also get to witness the grief of others.  Get to wince when Caitlin puts something too bluntly.  Cry when she is unable to understand.  Rejoice when connection is made, no matter how small.  Through Caitlin we get to see difference as a sliding scale that we too fit on somewhere.

This is a book about one family, one tragedy, one girl, but it reaches far beyond that.  It is a book about surviving, about scrambling for connections, about living life in color.  It is about fear, about being alone, and about reaching out despite how very hard it is.

I think we are going to hear a lot about this book with its large scope of ideas offered in a small package through the eyes of a brilliant girl.  I hope we do hear a lot about it.  It should be read in classrooms, discussed and embraced. 

Beautifully written, this book has the power to unite.  Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from Advanced Reader Copy provided by Philomel.

3 thoughts on “Mockingbird

  1. I came to this review because Kathy is a good friend of mine; but now I’m putting your blog on my blogroll because your reviews are truly excellent. Thank you for investing so much of yourself in finding great books for young people.


  2. AMP,

    Thanks so much! It means the world to me to know that people enjoy and appreciate my reviews and my passion for reading and books.


  3. Kathy Erskine’s book is, indeed, beautifully written. And so is this review. I am in Kathy’s critique group so I am very familiar with the book. And you really captured the essence of it! I know others will see in it what you did!


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