Published by Philomel Books on 15 April 2010
Genres: MG Realistic Fiction
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.
W H I L E working at the library this past summer, I had challenged myself to read all the books on the middle school reading summer reading list in case any patrons had questions or needed some Reader’s Advisory help. Unfortunately, I didn’t read all of the books, but I was able to read about 14 of the 28 books. One of those books was Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine. See below for my thoughts 🙂
Synopsis from GoodReads:
Caitlin has Asperger’s. The world according to her is black and white; anything in between is confusing. Before, when things got confusing, Caitlin went to her older brother, Devon, for help. But Devon was killed in a school shooting, and Caitlin’s dad is so distraught that he is just not helpful. Caitlin wants everything to go back to the way things were, but she doesn’t know how to do that. Then she comes across the word closure–and she realizes this is what she needs. And in her search for it, Caitlin discovers that the world may not be so black and white after all.
National Book Award Winner.
Erskine’s Mockingbird delves into some heavier topics through the eyes of Caitlin, a fifth grade girl with Asperger’s. In the novel, Erskine delves into the topics of loss, grief, empathy and healing. While these topics are heavy for any age, Erskine does a great job of presenting these topics to her intended age group.
One of the things I really loved about this novel was Caitlin’s character. Erskine has really gotten into the mind of her main character and I instantly felt immersed in Caitlin’s thoughts. I do have to note that I have no experience interacting with or knowing someone with Asperger’s. So, I cannot 100% say that Caitlin’s character was an authentic portrayal. However, Erskine’s daughter was diagnosed with Asperger’s, so I do trust that Erskine’s portrayal of Caitlin could be one person’s experience with Asperger’s. I really enjoyed reading from Caitlin’s point of view. I definitely felt like I walked away having learned more about how one person with Asperger’s might think, feel and act. With that said, Samantha Stanko wrote a more critical review of this novel from someone with Asperger’s point of view which points of out some of the problems within this novel. Her review is an important read about this book on the authenticity of Caitlin’s character.
Caitlin and her dad have just lost Caitlin’s older brother Devon to a school-shooter. This has left them both struggling to find closure. I found Caitlin’s mission to figure out what closure was and then to “find” it very relatable. Everyone has to deal with loss and grief at some point and I loved how Caitlin’s journey also brought healing and closure to not only her dad but the community at large.
I also enjoyed how Erskine presented multiple people seeking closure within the story, not just Caitlin and her dad. Each person’s journey to closure within the novel was different and unique to the character. It was really nice to see this realistic portrayal of closure. I also enjoyed how the novel showcased that you cannot always know what another person is going through and that someone you might not think would need it, does need closure as well.
Alongside the storyline, I also really enjoyed the secondary characters like Mrs. Brooks, Josh and Emma. I especially loved Michael. I loved his sweetness and how he and Caitlin clicked right away. I also liked how they ended up being connected within the novel.
Erskine’s writing seemed effortless. The story was realistic, the pacing was just right and the characters were strong. Clearly, Erskine knows what she’s doing.
This story takes you on an emotional ride as it tackles loss and grief and empathy–all heavy topics–but it also leaves you with a sense of hope. That lingering of hope that permeates through the end of the story makes you walk away lighter than when you began the story.
Overall, this book is one I’d highly recommend you pick up, even if Middle Grade or contemporary or “sad” books aren’t your thing. This book is well worth the emotions experienced while reading it and is so much more than another middle grade book!
Have you read Mockingbird? Did you have any misgivings about the novel? What did you think about Caitlin as a character? Leave all your thoughts below in the comments! I’d love to hear what you have to say about this novel!
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