"Mockingbird", the author's thought of writing it, was utter brilliance, thoughtfulness, and empathy on the part of autistic persons. If I ever meet Ms. Erskine, I'm going to give her hand a big, tight shake and thank her for writing this book, placing herself in the shoes of the thousands, perhaps millions, of people in this world who are on the Autistic Spectrum and revealing their struggles and inner greatness. I know what it is like to grow up on the Spectrum, and, even though my case isn't as low-functioning as the protagonist's (ten-year old Caitlin), I know what these bright individuals have to face when it comes to their greatest challenge in life: interacting with "other people", unable to socialize and empathize with them fervently.
Erskine writes simply yet accurately through the eyes of Asperger's-diagnosed Caitlin, dry-eyed while mourning the loss of her older brother to a school shooting by reading up the definitions of important words like "closure" in her best friend the dictionary and wondering how anybody is going to understand her quirky, meaningful behavior and thoughts now that he is gone. With the help of her kind school counselor and her new-found friend Micheal (if I remember his name correctly), she treads down the long, hard road of recovery with her unconnecting father; suffering the realities of elementary school and struggling for a way out of their grief till they find "closure", and she finds the magic of empathy for others.
View-changing, imprinted in your memory for years to come, simplistic, satisfying, and deserving of the medal it got; that's how I describe it. I've even developed a fantasy of there being a law one day that every elementary and middle-schooler should read this! At the very beginning of the novel, with misty clouds, blue sky, and crudely drawn mockingbird on the cover, there's a dedication "...so that we may understand each other better." I realize now she was talking to me and all my other clubmates on the Asperger's/Autistic spectrum, as well as to the mentally "normal" kids reading the book. The reason why so many AS (Asperger's syndrome) and autistic kids get bullied at school like our heroine Caitlin is that they don't know how he or she thinks, or why he or she thinks it; likewise, we autistic people don't understand why all those neurotypical people don't "Get It", as Caitlin would put it, or why our classmates sit around talking about rock stars and make up; we'd rather talk about the Lord of the Flies' allegory and WWII history! This book could serve as a bridge between the normal kids and autistic kids, showing realistically what the other thinks why.
Because this book was so good I can think of nothing wrong with it. No violence beyond the post-school shooting atmosphere and discussion, and a few instances of bullying; no sex, bad language, consumerism, etc.
Above all, every kid, and adult because there are most definitely autistic adults in this world, should read this. You will never look at an Asperger's or autistic person the same way AGAIN, or a neurotypical person. After reading this book, I was able to associate a bit more with the neurotypical people around me, appreciate my adult teachers and mentor better, and even empathize very well with a boy in my class who has even more low-functioning Asperger's than me. I already had a general idea of how his mind worked, but I understood even better after zipping through "Mockingbird". I realized that even though his humor was off and hard to get, his social skills in need of work, and his accompanying speech problems a hindrance, it all wasn't really that bad; it was just who he was, and in reality very understandable, when you thought about it. I have confidence that you or your child will feel and reflect something similar. Thanks again, Ms. Erskine, for writing this book.