June 16, 2011

Seeing the world with new eyes

by Kathryn Erskine

Twelve-year-old Caitlin has Asperger’s syndrome. With the help of her school counselor, Mrs. Brook, she struggles to understand emotions, show empathy, and make friends, all while dealing with a personal tragedy – the death of her older brother Devon in a school shooting.

Devon wasn’t the only person killed. A teacher and another student were too. The entire community has been traumatized, and everyone is trying to find closure. Caitlin doesn’t Get Closure. (Do you know how to get to the state of experiencing an emotional conclusion to a difficult life event?) It’s hard to find, but you have to Work  At It. You have to try even if it’s hard and you think you can never do it and you just want to scream and hide and shake your hands over and over and over.

She doesn’t think she’ll like making friends either, because it’s going to hurt. But after the hurt I think maybe something good and strong and beautiful will come out of it. 

Caitlin is a very endearing character. Her misunderstandings of others and their misunderstandings of her is painful yet humorous at the same time. Erskine sympathetically shows that even though Caitlin doesn't display emotion (apart from her tantrums), it does not stop her from having emotions. Her courage and strength is inspiring.

by Francisco X. Stork

Like Caitlin in Mockingbird, Marcelo Sandoval has Asperger's Syndrome. Unlike Caitlin, he is able to function quite well, so well, in fact, that his father doesn't really believe that there's anything wrong with him. He wants Marcelo to work at his law firm for the summer and join the "real world". There, he meets Jasmine, his supervisor, and Wendell, the conniving son of one of the firm's partners.

Marcelo learns a lot about competition, jealousy, anger and desire. But when he finds a picture in a file - a girl with half a face - he discovers suffering and injustice, and is determined to make things right, even at his father's expense.

Marcelo is an intriguing character. Unable to fully grasp the underlying meanings behind a person's words and actions, he observes, questions, and says things with a disarming honesty and directness that causes others to open up and reveal their innermost feelings.

Along the way, he finds that the real world is manageable after all, and is able to make plans for the future.

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