Caitlin is a fifth grader who prefers her world in black and white where the colors don’t blend, so it’s not confusing in a world already difficult to understand. Caitlin has Asperger’s syndrome, which is similar to autism. She has difficulty with social skills and doesn’t make friends easily, for her the perfect school group is working alone. She doesn’t make eye contact and has trouble identifying facial expressions. When she becomes anxious in a social situation she often sucks on her shirt or fidgets with her hands. She meets with the school counselor who teaches her social skills and the importance to make friends to get ready for middle school next year. Caitlin also visits the school counselor to manage her brother Devon’s recent death. The brother died in a school shooting that occurred in a small community. Caitlin doesn’t understand exactly why her brother died and searches in her dictionary to learn about the heart. Finally, Caitlin discovers after reading the word closure that it is exactly what her and her father need to manage Devon’s death.
The book’s title Mockingbird refers to how her brother loved the film To Kill a Mockingbird and he often called Caitlin Scout. Caitlin often states that her own dad is similar to Atticus. I had difficulty putting an age frame on Mockingbird, since the topic is complex and sensitive. The book only refers to the shooting from Caitlin’s perspective as The Day Our Life Fell Apart and doesn’t get graphic or discuss any details. The book focuses more upon Caitlin’s daily struggles to adjust into a colorful world, but still being herself. Mockingbird won a YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) Best Fiction Award in 2011. It also won a National Book Award for Young People’s Literature in 2010.
Caitlin, Dad says. The whole town is upset by what happened. They want to help.How?They want to be with you. Talk to you. Take you places.I don’t want to be with them or talk to them or go places with them.He sighs. They want to help you deal with life, Caitlin…without Devon.
I don’t know what this means but the people come to our house. I wish I could hide in Devon’s room but I’m not allowed in there now. Not since The Day Our Life Fell Apart…
– Kathryn Erskine (Mockingbird, pages 10-11)