In Jennifer Roy’s Mindblind, 15 year old Nicholas has Aspberger’s Syndrome. Whereas in Kathryn Erskine’s Mockingbird, Caitlin is 11 years old and her special interest is dictionaries, in Mindblind 15 year old Nicholas has an aptitude for mathematics. (Although he doesn’t fit the formal definition of genius, of which he is obsessed, Nicholas comes darn close.) There is a huge maturation that occurs between 11/12 year olds and 15/16 year olds, so while in Mockingbird, Caitlin is trying to figure out what is socially acceptable and what isn’t, Nicholas has it pretty well sorted out. Whether he acts on it or not seems to be a conscious decision on his part.
While in both books, the community at large is accepting of its ‘Aspies’, the big difference between the books is that Nicholas’ father can’t accept what Nicholas is. Despite his aversion to crowds and loud noises, his father wants Nicholas to be a normal teenager and forces him to go to a party. The fact that Nicholas has friends (whereas Caitlin was still working on that) and is relatively normal doesn’t satisfy his father. You can imagine the results.
As with Kathryn Erskine’s story, Roy reiterates that with early detection and intervention (in this case, from Nicholas’ mother), Nicholas is a ‘normal’ or in his words ‘neurotypical’ teen. Roy, too, has created characters that readers can relate to, want to relate to, want to meet and get to know. I’m glad I read Mockingbird first and Mindblind second because I can now imagine how Caitlin turns out and that adds a special element to the story.
The merits of both Roy’s and Erskine’s books are too numerous to mention. The writing, the story, the characters all shine. Bringing Asperger’s Syndrome to the forefront, as does Francisco X. Stork in Marcelo in the Real World (I just had to mention him again) does a tremendous service. These three books form an Asperger’s Syndrome Triumvirate and should be on everyone’s reading list. Educate yourself while giving yourself a treat and read Mockingbird, Mindblind and Marcelo in the Real World. (I wonder if there’s any significance to the fact that the titles of these books begins with the letter “M”?
Read Full Post »
Unbeknownst to me, I picked up two Young Adult books recently in which the main character has Asperger’s Syndrome: the National Book Award Winner Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine and Mindblind by Jennifer Roy, the award winning author of Yellow Star. Since I’m in the middle of the latter book, I’ll talk about Mockingbird. (By the way, I must mention Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork, another marvelous book on the subject.)
Twleve year old Caitlin has to deal with the death of her mother from cancer two years earlier and the recent middle school shooting death of her older brother Devon. It’s a lot to contend with even if you don’t have Asperger’s. While her father understands her, he must deal with his grief, and is unable to translate that to Caitlin. It was Devon who really understood her and explained the world to her. While an element of Mindblind and Marcelo deals with a parent who doesn’t understand the idiosyncracies of his (it seems to be the plight of the father) older Asperger’s child, Erskine in her Author’s Note, explains the need to understand each human’s potential and limitations, and rather than dwelling on the conflict of misunderstanding, would rather dwell on the concept of understanding and early intervention. And she does an excellent job of it.
Caitlin’s special nature comes through loud and clear; her drawing ability, her affinity for dictionaries and the meanings of words, the comfort she feels when she puts her head under the couch cushions to feel closer to those people who sat on it. Erskine doesn’t downplay the socialization difficulties Asperger children have because of their unique nature. What you come away with after reading Mockingbird is a real sense of who Caitlin is–she is a real person and you want to get to know her, to be her friend. There is a love and warmth that emanates from Erskine’s writing…you get the feeling she really loves Caitlin, not an emotion you often get when reading a book.
I had picked up Mockingbird back in mid-September and put it down within a chapter. I guess I wasn’t ready for the book. This time, I read the book in one day; that’s how much I liked it. Mockingbird is a book for all age groups. It is beautifully written, tender and informative as well. It is worthy of its award (not something I can say about every award winner).
Read Full Post »