Reading Log: Mockingbird (Kathryn Erskine)

I know very little about autism, Asperger’s or the autistic spectrum. The only other book I’ve read with a narrator who fell on the spectrum is Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Haddon’s book is, it must be said, stylistically a cut above this one, though I did enjoy how Erskine used CAPS to portray Caitlyn’s thoughts). So it is entirely possible that Mockingbird an inaccurate or unfair portrayal…and possible that the book is emotionally manipulating people like myself who have little knowledge and few things to compare it to.

While I found the book a compelling read, I was aware—even as I cried (twice!)—that the story seemed too pat, Caitlyn too much like a character drawn from a book about autism. For the intended age group the obvious symbolism (a good example: Caitlyn’s dead brother leaves behind an unfinished wooden chest while he himself was shot in the heart, etc.) is probably pitched right; for an adult, it’s rather heavy-handed.

The ending moved me to tears, but it felt like Erskine’s epiphany, not Caitlyn’s. I had a nice cathartic cry at the end borne partially of wish-fulfillment, not unlike watching a predictable movie that confirms my point of view in an emotional way. I suspect a more accurate portrayal would have been less emotionally satisfying, but would have helped the reader gain significantly more empathy with Caitlyn than this witnessing of her somewhat unbelievable transformation.

Recommended; with caveats.

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