This was another book I had to read for my YA lit grad class, and I read it from cover to cover in a single afternoon. I've never read a YA book whose central character has a mental disability. In this case. Caitlin has Aspergers syndrome. I love that this class is stretching me and making me read more diverse books.
Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine
Publisher: Philomel Books
Publish Date: April 15th, 2010
Genre: Middle Grade, 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 closer, 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. (Goodreads)
My Bookish Thoughts:
This book is full of fantastic real life situations. Caitlin has Aspergers and her brother was killed in a school shooting. This alone will tell you that it can be a difficult read, but oh my gosh, was it so rewarding to be able to read.
Firs, let me talk about diversity. As of 2013, only 3% of YA books on the New York Times best sellers list was about characters with disabilities (which ended up being two title -The Fault in Our Stars, and Will Grayson, Will Grayson- both of which deal with depression and cancer related disabilities). That slight percentage breaks my heart, because it is through diverse books, specifically those about mental disabilities in this case, that reader truly learn how to empathize with those who are different from them.
Caitlin's disability is astoundingly portrayed in this book. She has problems with textures; she doesn't pick up on social cues easily; she takes things in a very literal sense; she likes structure in schedules and situations; she doesn't do well with noise, especially screaming and loud noises that disrupt her; she doesn't do well in understanding emotions and responding correctly to emotions. I love how Erskine really looks deeply at what affects people with Aspergers. There were a lot of things I didn't understand about people with Aspergers before I read this book, and now I know how to interact with the, and make sure that they are more comfortable. For me, this is what this book should do: teach people how to interact and empathize with people who are different from them.
This was a tear-jerker for sure, and it tugged on all the heart strings. I found myself tearing up in many parts of the book just because I could actually feel Caitlin's confusion and frustration with the world. My mother works in disability services (and has been working in similar fields for a long time), and through that, I see how important the guidance of adults and friends are in their lives.
Overall, I thought this was a superb book and really does a great job making the reality of a little girl with Aspergers seem very real to readers. I would recommend everyone read this book just to enrich their ives if for no other reason.
I gave this book 4 stars on my Goodreads.