I don’t go to bookstores very often because it is dangerous. I already have a huge and growing list of books to read, and bookstores just increase the chances that I’ll end up with a book not even on my list. I should just admit to myself that I will never complete my list, but I’ve been trying denial for a while now. Books on my list are like that old wive’s tale about gray hairs, where if you pull one out, two more grow in its place.
I was recently in a bookstore, and yep, it happened again. I was innocently walking by a shelf when this book caught my eye.
As an ardent fan of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, I could not ignore this cover.
(BTW- I’m still not sure where I stand on Go Set a Watchman)
I picked up the book and read the back cover, then the first few pages. I quickly realized this book is for juveniles and a far stretch from the A Song of Ice and Fire series I have been reading. It appeared it would be a quick, yet humorous and pleasant read, and also something good to read as a gauge for a comparison to my own juvenile fiction series (please, if you do not understand the naming of book age categories, do not think I am insulting this or my own books). And yes, it is a tribute to the book I love so much.
So I bought it.
And I took it to read on days at the beach (between walks, and searching for starfish with a five year old).
Oh, and I loved it!
First of all, the trio of young friends was not only a group I personally connected to because they were intelligent yet fun book nerds, but one of them had a Star Wars backpack as well. Seriously, I loved that these kids were not portrayed as a bunch of trouble-making hoodlums out wreaking havoc all summer long, but a group of awkward kids with their own issues, making the most of their summer by “fighting for the books” in a way that would have made their late English teacher proud.
Though technology played an important role in the progress of the kids’ summer project, kids being kids reigned and there was an Americana feel of how simple summer should be and an innocence similar to that of Scout, Jem, and Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird. Sure, they witnessed Atticus having to put down a rabid dog and defend a poor black man wrongfully on trial for the color of his skin, and Lucy, Elena, and Michael deal with the death of a beloved teacher while Lucy comes to grips with the near loss of her own mother to cancer, but they are still all just kids trying to have fun in a small town setting.
There is also an understanding of our culture that is a little sad, but still funny. This excerpt will illustrate that:
“We know people are talking about the book,” I say to Elena. “I wish we could be sure that they’re reading it.”
“How about we go online and start a rumor that To Kill a Mockingbird is violent and lewd? she suggests. “That would get people to read it.”
“The story’s got rape, murder, lynching, and rabies,” I remind her. “There’s also a man named Boo, and an old lady drug addict, and a kid dressed up like a pork chop. How are we going to top that?”
There is also a beautiful scene where Lucy and her mother finally talk about her mother’s near miss with death by cancer:
“Lucy,” says Mom, “I am going to die.”
Suddenly I feel like I can’t catch my breath. “What?” I say again.
“You heard me… But that’s not all.”
“I’m not going to die today…We all die, Lucy. Me. You. Everybody. But you know what we do first?”
I shake my head.
“We pretend that it’s not going to happen. We make believe that we’re never going to die. Do you know what that’s called?”
“Lying?” I say.
“Living, Lucy. It’s called living. That’s what I’m going to do now.”
I Kill the Mockingbird was an easy and funny read, yet had deep messages. In that way,and the presence of a protagonist who is mature and intelligent, I compare this story to my own book series. I loved this book, and it was a great respite in the middle of the violence and death I’ve been reading.