Title: Mockingbird
Author: Kathryn Erskine
ISBN: 9780399252648
Pages: 235 pages
Publisher/Date: Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguing Group (USA) Inc. c2010.

Finally, I say, I feel like TiVo.
She leans across the table toward me. Not too close to my Personal Space because I’ll use my words to tell her to back off if she gets too close. Say again?
TEE-VO
What do you mean?
I fast-forward through the bad parts and all of a sudden I’m watching something and I’m not sure how I got there.

She scratches the part in her hair with her forefinger. The rest of her fingers stick up in the air and move like they’re waving. Then she stops. I see, she says.
I look around the room. What do you see? I ask.
I think you’d like to forget about the painful events you’ve been through.
I want to tell her that I prefer TiVo on mute and I wish she’d cooperate. But if I do it’ll start a whole Let’s Talk About It discussion so I say nothing. (11-12)

Fifth-grader Caitlin has Asperger’s Syndrome, which forces her to see the world differently and quite literally. She doesn’t handle emotions well, from other people or from herself, and has difficulty relating to other people. When a local tragedy hits close to home, she is forced to face not only her own grief but that of her father. Her school counselor encourages Caitlin to find Closure, but Caitlin is frustrated because she doesn’t know what it is or where to find it. A younger student affected by the same tragedy enters her life, and Caitlin finally realizes that closure is something she can help others find, even while she’s still trying to discover it for herself.

Caitlin’s struggle pulled at my heart strings. I’ve read other stories about autism, but this one is really well suited for the upper elementary and early middle school because of Caitlin’s voice. She talks about how adults encourage her to Get It, Deal With It, and Talk About It, all phrases that I’m sure every pre-teen has heard at least once in their life. But Caitlin has obviously heard it more than once, and the repetition is getting on her nerves, even if she has difficulty vocalizing that idea. In a way, it kind of reminded me of Clementine, by Sarah Pennypacker, because she also hears the same phrases over and over and doesn’t understand.

Her school counselor is very understanding, even if the kids at school are not so forgiving for her behavior. It’s not that their specifically mean, it’s just that they don’t understand her and Caitlin doesn’t understand them. It’s like they’re speaking two different languages, so the kids try to avoid her. It also doesn’t help that the whole town knows what happened but doesn’t know how to comfort someone who is so emotionally detached from “normal” society. Readers really witness how childlike Caitlin is when she starts bonding with Michael, a boy in a younger grade. When another classmate named Josh starts bonding with Michael as well, it really upsets Caitlin, especially because she doesn’t see Josh in the same way. But by the end of the book, other classmates have shown some kindness towards Caitlin, which gives some hope for her future at the school.

That seems to be the main thread of this book, is hope for the future. Hope that things will turn out alright, even when things have changed so drastically. Hope that memories and momentos will serve to comfort the people most traumatized by tragedy.

Advertisements