Author: Kathryn Erskine
Publisher: Philomel (Penguin)
Date Published: April 15, 2010
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. (Goodreads)
National Book Award for Young People's Literature.
This book really hit close to home, figuratively speaking, for two reasons: one, because I work with special needs children and two, because it is somewhat of a response to the Virginia Tech shootings. Although I did not attend VT, I do have friends who did. I was a junior in college at the time and I vividly remember watching the news coverage of the event.
In the book, the horrific shooting occurs at a middle school, rather than a college, and Caitlin's brother is one of the victims. This event causes Caitlin's father to become very depressed (who wouldn't after the death of his wife and son). She struggles to help her father and herself understand and come to terms with what has happened.
The author really does an excellent job of portraying a child with Asperger Syndrome. When I started reading Mockingbird, I immediately thought of one student in particular. At times, it is hard to really understand what is going on in their heads and I really think Erskine is spot on. For example, Caitlin needs routine; if anything is out of the ordinary, she is thrown off and has a hard time accepting the change. Also, Caitlin has trouble with social interaction. When trying to make friends, Caitlin's struggle to understand social cues and inability to control herself, causes her classmates to find her weird. The author openly presents a view of Caitlin from the outside, her classmates call her "freak" and teachers complain about being stuck with a special student. Although this is sad, I think because many people lack understanding of certain disabilities, they do not know how to handle them.
This is such a touching book. I definitely teared up at parts. If you have not done so, read this book. I think it is very important to understanding special needs children, as well as how a major tragedy affects a community. If you enjoyed this book, I just have to make the suggestion of Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork. This is also about an autistic child and his struggle/triumph of understanding events and relationships that are a part of the "real" world.