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Ten-year-old Caitlin Smith has Asperger's syndrome, which is why she is processing a horrific event differently than everyone else in her small Virginia town. As the result of a school shooting, her beloved brother, Devon, and two others are dead. Caitlin's mother is also dead, lost to cancer when Caitlin was just three. She addresses these losses matter-of-factly; her lack of tact is especially hard on her father, a kind man who is falling apart. Over the course of the story, Caitlin, who like many with Asperger's has incredible brainpower but few social skills, must learn empathy. She narrates-a risky choice that mostly works. Her Amelia Bedelia-like misunderstandings of figurative language provide much needed moments of levity, and her extreme conscientiousness is endearing. Erskine (Quaking) works in powerful imagery throughout-Devon's unfinished Eagle Scout project was a wooden chest, and for Caitlin, it's entwined with the irreparable bullet wound in Devon's chest. Although an author's note links the novel with the 2007 tragedy at Virginia Tech, this novel is not about violence as much as about the ways in which a wounded community heals. Ages 10-up. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal
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Gr 4-6-From inside Caitlin's head, readers see the very personal aftermath of a middle school shooting that took the life of the older brother she adored. Caitlin is a bright fifth grader and a gifted artist. She also has Asperger's syndrome, and her brother, Devon, was the one who helped her interpret the world. Now she has only her father, a widower who is grieving anew and whose ability to relate to his daughter is limited. A compassionate school counselor works with her, trying to teach her the social skills that are so difficult for her. Through her own efforts and her therapy sessions, she begins to come to terms with her loss and makes her first, tentative steps toward friendship. Caitlin's thought processes, including her own brand of logic, are made remarkably clear. The longer readers spend in the child's world, the more understandable her entirely literal and dispassionate interpretations are. Marred slightly by the portrayal of Devon as a perfect being, this is nonetheless a valuable book. After getting to know Caitlin, young people's tendencies to label those around them as either "normal" or "weird" will seem as simplistic and inadequate a system as it truly is.-Faith Brautigam, Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Ten-year-old Caitlyn hates recess, with all its noise and chaos, and her kind, patient counselor, Mrs. Brook, helps her to understand the reasons behind her discomfort, while offering advice about how to cope with her Asberger's Syndrome, make friends, and deal with her grief over her older brother's death in a recent school shooting. She eschews group projects in class, claiming that she doesn't need to learn how to get along with others, but solitude is neither good for her or her grieving father, and when Caitlyn hears the term closure, she turns to her one trusty friend, her dictionary, and sets out on a mission to find it for both of them. Along the way, Caitlyn makes many missteps, but eventually she does achieve the long-sought closure with great finesse, which is another of her favorite vocabulary words. Allusions to Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, the portrayal of a whole community's healing process, and the sharp insights into Caitlyn's behavior enhance this fine addition to the recent group of books with narrators with autism and Asbergers.--Dobrez, Cindy Copyright 2010 Booklist