Reading some autism fiction this time

Mockingbird – Katherine Erksine

This book is actually a young adult book.  One of E.’s friends is now working at our local library.  It’s like having my own personal librarian, and he suggested this book.

This story is told from the point of view of Caitlin, a ten year old girl with Aspergers Syndrome.   She’s in the fifth grade, in a fully included class.  Her brother was recently killed in a school shooting at the town’s middle school.  She lives with her widowed father.  The tragedy plays a big part in the story.   Caitlin’s brother was an important mentor for her, teaching her many things about how to interact with the world.  The book is about how Caitlin learns to deal with the loss of her brother and learn about emotions in the process.

The author does a great job of describing how Caitlin interprets the world.  The book starts with her remembering what she calls YOUR MANNERS, and getting a sticker on her chart towards the opportunity to watch a video.   It is clear she doesn’t understand the reason for saying thank you or whatever, she has just memorized the correct responses and has a desire to please to obtain her reward.

Caitlin gets pulled out of class to have time with what I assume is a Special Ed Teacher or inclusion specialist.  This teacher suggests that Caitlin take recess with the younger kids.   She ends up befriending a first grader, and he helps her to understand that YOUR MANNERS are actually her manners.  She uses the phrase MY MANNERS.  It was really interesting reading about her coming to understand this, and developing a friendship with the younger boy.   I’m not sure how realistic the depiction of her peers coming to treat her better is, but it was heartwarming.

I’m a total wimp when it comes to fiction that is sad, so this obviously colors my opinion.  I thought that the background of the tragedy almost took away from the message of the book.   Does a young person with Aspergers Syndrome have to experience such an tremendous loss to be able to develop a better understanding of emotions?   I do get that books about school shootings have a place, I just think I would have preferred the topics be dealt with separately.

Be sure to have a box of Kleenex handy if you read this.