Author: Paul Acampora
Genre: Contemporary, Middle Grade
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication Date: May 20 2014
Hardcover: 176 Pages
When Lucy, Elena, and Michael receive their summer reading list, they are excited to see To Kill A Mockingbird included. But not everyone in their class shares the same enthusiasm. So they hatch a plot to get the entire town talking about the well-known Harper Lee classic. They plan controversial ways to get people to read the book, including re-shelving copies of the book in bookstores so that people think they are missing and starting a website committed to “destroying the mockingbird.” Their efforts are successful when all of the hullabaloo starts to direct more people to the book. But soon, their exploits start to spin out of control and they unwittingly start a mini revolution in the name of books.
Stand alone or series: Stand alone novel
How did I get this book: Review copy via Netgalley
Format (e- or p-): eARC
Why did I read this book: This one was purely via browsing Netgalley. I liked the cover and the sound of it, it seemed like a thoughtful book.
It’s the summer before high school starts and friends Lucy, Elena and Michael just got their holiday reading list. It includes the classic Harper Lee novel To Kill A Mockingbird, one of Lucy’s favourite books. Enthused about that choice and hoping to pay homage to a beloved English teacher who recently passed away, the three concoct an elaborate plan to make sure everybody in their classroom (and beyond) actually read that book.
Mixing shelving and marketing strategies, economics principles and computer knowledge, the trio goes about miss-shelving copies of the book in bookstores and libraries. The idea is that if people think the book is gone and that there is a shortage of copies of TKAMB, the demand for it will increase. Hence, I Kill The Mockingbird is born.
And just like any plan ever that has been hatched by young teenagers during summer: things escalate pretty fast.
There is a really cool positive energy running through I Kill the Mockingbird. Kids discovering how to be activists, delighting in their love for books, reading and criticism and being just generally smart. It’s also a very contemporary novel in the way that it engages with social media and how events progress and can potentially escalate online.
The plan itself is of course, convoluted and a bit ridiculous. But this effusive ridiculousness is part of the fun behind the story. It’s always a great pleasure to read about clever kids who are genuinely passionate about books and reading.
I Kill the Mockingbird has other things going for it too. There is an undercurrent of “change” that runs through the story. It’s summer after all, and just before these kids leave Middle Grade to High School. Michael is discovering that he is better at baseball than many kids of his age and that it is perhaps not fair to play against them. Lucy is dealing with the near-loss of her mother to cancer and Elena’s strong-wiliness could be spiralling out of control. Not to mention that Michael and Lucy’s friendship might be morphing into something else altogether.
I also love that their appreciation for To Kill a Mockingbird doesn’t come without criticism. Michael doesn’t necessarily love the book and has very strong reservations about the narrative choice of having a white protagonist in the context of that novel. There are also thoughtful conversations about faith and religion that never veer toward moralising (always a plus).
On the downside, perhaps the book is too brief and short-lived to really make a strong impression. The revolution that the characters hoped for doesn’t really happen – their plan spirals out of control but also a bit out of focus within the story. This is perhaps understandable considering the circumstances and although the ending certainly makes the kids think about consequences to their actions, there is a feeling of superficiality that lingered after I finished reading.
Finally, the biggest, strongest criticism I have for the book is the one pertaining a character called Fat Bob. Fat Bob is the recently deceased English teacher that the kids admired so much. He literally dies of a heart attack as he orders French fries at the school canteen. His coffin is literally not strong enough to hold his body as it is lowered down into his grave. That’s just too much fat shaming and it’s very uncomfortable and it counterbalances so much of what is good about the book.
A book connects you to the universe like a cell phone connects you to the Internet…But it only work if your battery’s not dead
Rating: 6 – Good with strong reservations
Reading Next: Midnight Thief
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