WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the story ranging from unimportant to plot turners.
Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine
Type: Contemporary, Special Needs
Basic Plot: Caitlin, a girl with Aspergers, is suffering from her brother’s death in a school shooting, and tries to understand her life without his help.
Plot: 4/5 Well Done: The plot revolved around a school shooting that happened at Caitlin’s brother’s school and how people were affected by it emotionally, especially Caitlin. The second main focus was on Caitlin learning how gets along socially in life. Both of these subjects were interesting to read about. It is already interesting to be reading about a person who may have a disability, but it was made more so by showing how people with this type of problem may deal with it. The plot was creative and done well for a children’s book.
Writing Style and Setup: 3 ½/5 Above Average: The style is a first person perspective from the eyes of Caitlin. This was a very good perspective to use. Because you are reading from a first person perspective, the things Caitlin does that would normally be weird make sense and seem almost reasonable. Because it was from this perspective though, the descriptions of the way people looked or what Caitlin’s surroundings are not as detailed and were described differently. Though I liked the way things were described, the lack of description that came with it was a bit disappointing.
The pace and setup of the book were good. It started and ended at appropriate times. The only thing that may have been lacking was you do not always know when things are happening. You may not know how much time has always passed between chapters, though it is clear it hasn’t been a lot of time. It is not a big issue, but it is there.
Moral: 2½/5 A Mostly Good Moral: The author said that the moral of the book was to promote understanding of other people. She believed that understanding others was a key to stopping violence. This is only partially true. The root of violence is sin. Selfishness and a refusal to listen to others are part of the sin issue that man has, so the moral is only partially correct.
Another moral a reader may see is to try new things that are hard. Caitlin learns to put effort into socially getting along with other people. This may encourage the reader to try things that are hard or make them uncomfortable that will better their life.
The third thing a reader may keep in mind with this book has to do with death. As Christians we have God’s promise of Heaven to comfort us, while the unsaved do not. Caitlin looks for closure, but never goes to God for it. She does get comfort, but as Christians we know true peace with death can only come through Jesus Christ.
Overall: 3½/5 Above Average: This book is recommended to children eleven to twelve and older of either gender. Aspergers, as far as I know, is portrayed accurately in the book. The best thing about this book was the emotion it caused the reader to have, and the worst was probably the occasional vagueness in description. Overall it is recommendable.
Sexual and Inappropriate Content: ½/5 Slightly Suggestive: Some girls tell a teacher they have to leave because of a “girl thing” that really isn’t happening.
Violence: 1½/5 Mentioned Violence and Some Light Violence: Caitlin accidentally hits her head. Children bully each other by shoving, sometimes to the ground. It mentions two school shootings, though they are not seen happening in the book. When Caitlin scrapes a tree with a quarter she gets cuts on her hands, strongly implying a counselor to thought she was cutting herself. A girl falls off a bike and scrapes up her face. Caitlin attacks a boy. There is mention of Caitlin biting her brother’s finger until he tears up.
Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: ½/5 Suggestive: It mentions once that a man swears, but does not say what he said. “Gosh” is said twice.
Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: 3½/5 Quite Emotional: There is a lot of emotional content in this book. Caitlin’s brother has been murdered, and the book revolves around her and her father’s emotional recovery. Other people are mentioned having died by shooting as well. Two shooting s actually are mentioned happening though are not shown as well as a girl believing one was happening. There is crying from several characters and Caitlin does have one or two emotional breakdowns. There are also several scenes that are emotional. It talks about a dog being shot. When Caitlin hears the metaphor “crash and burn” she thinks it is referring to that kind of situation. Children bully each other, sometimes intentionally and sometimes more so of being inconsiderate. Caitlin thinks about death in movies. Blood is mentioned at least once.
Religious Issues: 0/5 None
Magic: 0/5 None
Others: 0/5 None
Overall: This book is clean in content, but because of the emotional content it is probably not good for young children. I recommend this book to children ten to twelve and older.