Review: Mockingbird

By Kathryn Erskine
Penguin Young Readers
April 2010

Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

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.

The Short of It:

Mockingbird is at once heartbreaking, sad and hopeful. It takes you by the hand, leads you down the path of love and loss and never lets you go.

The Rest of It:

Mockingbird is a special, little book. After Caitlin’s older brother Devon is killed in a school shooting, Caitlin and her father struggle to make it through their grief but they are constantly reminded of Devon and can’t seem to find closure. If that isn’t difficult enough, Caitlin suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome so what she sees is often black or white and nothing in between. What makes this story so special is that it’s told  from Caitlin’s point of view. This means that when she feels overly anxious about loud noises or finds herself unable to read someone’s expression, we hear or see it from her perspective.

When I first picked this book up, I found it a tad hard to follow. Caitlin’s thought patterns are a bit jumbled and it takes a little bit of time to find the rhythm in her words, but when you do, you can’t help but feel her pain. She loved her brother. He was the only one in the family that “got” her. He anticipated her needs and without him around, she is forced to reassess how she communicates with others.

Here is a quote from page 21 which is where she wants to enter Devon’s room even though she’s been told not to:

I wish I could go in and say Devon, I’m hungry, and he’d grin and his dimples would show and he’d say, You and me both, and we’d go find Dad and order a pizza because it’s Thursday and we’d eat warm drippy extra cheese pizza in front of Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy.

The other thing to note, is that all the dialogue is italicized. I got used to it and it did not detract from the story at all. Seeing things from Caitlin’s point of view was an incredibly powerful experience. This book is geared towards young adults but I think anyone reading it will be drawn to Caitlin. In one sense she is terribly complex but at the core, she is like any other eleven-year-old. She wants to be understood, she wants to fit in and she yearns for friends like any other kid her age.

Mockingbird is a quick but important read and if you’re wondering if there is a connection between this book and To Kill a Mockingbird, there is, but you’ll have to read the book to find out what it is.

Mockingbird comes out on April 15th but you can pre-order it now.

Source: This ARC was sent to me by the publisher via Shelf Awareness.

15 thoughts on “Review: Mockingbird”

  1. Ti, thanks for sharing about this book. I really enjoyed your review and am quite drawn to this book. I’ll be putting it on my wishlist and eagerly anticipating the publish date.

  2. I have noticed a number of books out recently that address Aspergers, and I think that is important. It is misunderstood. I’m drawn to this book even just by the title. Who doesn’t love To Kill a Mockingbird?

  3. It certainly seems that there is an increased awareness of Aspergers lately. In fact, after reading quite a few things about it, I recently came to realize that one of my son’s friends must have it. It definitely makes me rethink the way I’ve related to him. I might just need to pick this one up.

    1. I have a co-worker with Asperger’s and it explains a lot. It’s quite different than autism although it falls within that spectrum.

  4. I’ve wanted to read this book since I first heard about it. Asperger’s is often misunderstood and I think it’s wonderful to see it in fictional books to help others understand. I’m glad that you felt the reader could understand her perspectives. It seems like there are two challenging topics here with the shooting and Aspergers and I’m interested to see how they blend together.

  5. I found out about your review from Jenners of Find Your Next Book Here.

    As a mom of a son with Asperger’s, it’s a challenge everyday to decipher what he says, and what he means, if anything.

    Sometimes, he quotes movies – and if you dig deep enough and ask enough questions, he finally reveals what he is thinking.

    I just finished House Rules, by Jodi Picoult (another book about a child with Asperger’s) – I often felt like she was either inside my head, or inside my son’s head.

    She really did her research on the subject, and nailed the dialogue.

    I might just have to check out this book.

    Thanks for your review.

    1. Thank you for stopping by my blog to comment. I have a co-worker with Asperger’s and working with her requires me to re-assess how I communicate with her. I am glad that Asperger’s is getting some recognition because so often it’s lumped in with Autism and although it does fall into that spectrum, I understand that it’s quite different.

  6. Wow – this sounds like a really interesting read! I feel like I’ve already met Caitlin from your awesome review. The connection with To Kill a Mockingbird has definitely piqued my interest! I adore that novel! I’ll definitely have to check this one out. Thanks so much for reviewing it!

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