Ten-year-old Caitlin has Asperger’s Syndrome. Not only that, but her 14-year-old brother has just been shot and killed by one of his classmates at Virginia Dare Middle School. As the whole community grieves Devon’s death, Caitlin is simply trying to understand the world around her through the black and white that she so tries to put everything in. Through the help of her school counselor and a newfound friend, she learns how to grieve and begins to grow as a young person.
Author Kathryn Erskine was inspired to write this novel after the shootings at Virginia Tech University in 2007. Her desire to communicate to the world the struggles of the human mind and how to resolve those issues within community has been settled in this beautiful and timely middle grade novel. The voice that the author has given to young Caitlin, as the novel is told from her point of view, gives the reader insight and understanding to the process of growth and grief, as well as the struggles of the disease that she will continue to fight with her whole life. The mannerisms and mindset are spot on and consistent throughout the novel. Because of the beautiful voice the author has given Caitlin, and the profound depth she gives to the young character, I am motivated to increase my knowledge of Asperger’s.
Devon’s character is also one to be noted. Even though the novel begins after his death, or The Day Our Life Fell Apart, he becomes real and almost alive to the reader. The way Caitlin describes his kindness and bravery makes him seem ever-present, if not simply remembered as a wonderful person. During his time spent with her, he taught her manners and how to treat people with kindness and tact, qualities that do not come naturally to those that struggle with autism or Asperger’s. Now that he is gone, Caitlin must learn these things on her own, while also trying to understand her father’s grief and depression.
The school counselor is a dynamic character in the novel. In the beginning, her frustration and ignorance of Caitlin’s struggles and mind-workings annoyed me. As the story progresses and Caitlin grows, the counselor grows as well and begins to walk Caitlin through the grieving and growth process. Though there is not much plot in the novel except for the initial Day Our Life Fell Apart, the characters shine and make this one to be remembered.
Thanks to Amanda at A Patchwork of Books for her giveaway, so I could be the recipient of this fabulous book.
by Kathryn Erskine
Published April 2010