Saturday, January 4, 2014


     In keeping with my recent plan of asking people who've won books in my giveaway contests to review them and have me post their comments, here is a thoughtful review of Kathryn Erskine's MOCKINGBIRD (Philomel, 2010) written by Aqsa, a voracious reader (in her second language!)and university engineering student in Hyderabad, Pakistan.  She tweets at @bookwhisperer_, where you are welcome to follow her and share her interesting viewpoints!

The Blurb:
Caitlin doesn’t understand. Her world, which is pretty much topsy-turvy already, turns upside down when her brother and best friend Devon dies on a fateful day in a school shooting. Caitlin, who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, refers to that as The Day Our Lives Fell Apart. We see how she learns to cope with her surroundings and tries to make sense of things. After reading the definition of closure, she realizes that she and the people around her are searching for it, all in their own ways.

My Views:

This novel is an insightful piece of writing. Written from Caitlin’s perspective, we see things from the mind of an eleven year old who has difficulty in understanding some things and is surprisingly intelligent in other matters. Unmistakably, it is a very moving story in which the reader, along with Caitlin, uncovers the meaning of closure, friendship, heart, and many things in between, in a manner which is seemingly simple but very profound. Symbolism is an important element in this book; for example, the wooden chest Devon has made, and Harper Lee’s mockingbird, both point to some of the important aspects of this book. Also, the way Caitlin interprets things is unusual. The relationships our protagonist shares with people around her are unique too. With Mrs. Brooks, who is the school counselor, she is a curious, unafraid child who is inquisitive of everything around her. With her classmate Emma, she tries to be friendly in her own way. With Michael, who is her first ever friend, she tries to play the elder helping sibling that Devon has always been to her. With her father, she is a demandingly innocent child who is having difficulty understanding her father’s actions.

What is remarkable about this book is that it covers three different storylines. It is a book about a school shooting and how the community deals with its grief. Secondly, it is a book about a child with Asperger’s syndrome learning to understand her surroundings, and finally, it is a book about dealing with the loss of a family member, of someone close to you.

The only thing that can be called as a weak point of this book is its writing style. The author has an unusual writing style which may be appealing to some readers, but can have a reverse effect on others. That is to say that the writer has taken a risk by writing this book in the way it is written; the way Caitlin’s mind works and her way of seeing and explaining things can be wearisome for some readers (because of her incoherent manner).

In my view however, this novel is well written and holds its charm over adults and kids alike.

Some of my favourite quotes from Mockingbird:

 “What's great about books is that the stuff inside doesn't change. People say you can't judge a book by its cover but that's not true because it says right on the cover what's inside. And no matter how many times you read that book the words and pictures don't change.”

“I don't think I'm going to like it at all. I think it's going to hurt. But after the hurt I think maybe something good and strong and beautiful will come out of it.” 

Understanding people’s difficulties and—just as crucial—helping people understand their own difficulties and teaching them concrete ways to help themselves will help them better deal with their own lives and, in turn, ours.”
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     Thank you, Aqsa!  You're a great reader, and always full of surprises!    

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