MOCKINGBIRD and “Showing” Emotion

So I pulled MOCKINGBIRD from the shelf because I’d been aware but not completely in touch with the praise it’s received. I hadn’t read the reviews. I didn’t even know what it was about. I just knew that people – a lot of people – thought it was good – really good.

But I’m not always swept away by books that have other readers swooning. This time I was.

Kaitlin our MC – who admits to failing at “emotion” and is struggling with “finesse,” stuffed-animaled me into a deep aching and longing and she did it with such finesse, I only felt and felt deeply.

I was never told to feel. Because after all, that’s not what Kaitlin does. She repels being told what to feel and how she should feel and how others feel. And it’s her emotional vacuum juxtaposed with her family tragedy, her new friendships, her father’s anguish – and those surprising glimpses of her heart that took my heart to a place it’s never been before in a book.

This book took my heart and twisted it out of my chest and chewed it up and spat it out. And that’s a good thing. Because I think feeling is a gift – whether overly sensitive or insensitive or somewhere in between. I’m in awe of Erskine who took me there with only character, low action and unadorned dialog. And it proved to me that emotion is the heart of a truly great story.

Amazingly, Erskine took me there via a first person who was allowed only her dispassionate observations, conversations and actions. The story is a brilliant lesson in “show don’t tell.” Erskine so gets us to feel without telling us how to feel.

Have you read the book? How does Erskine do it? What other books have finessed you on an emotional journey with a delicate hand and high impact?

 

2 Comments

  1. I did read it, and totally agree that it&#39;s masterful showing.<br /><br />I happened to read it at a time I was running into a LOT of books that featured MG kids doing vocab-building. In that sense, it struck me as &quot;Oh, another one like this.&quot; I began to find the technique rather author-intrusive.

  2. Interesting point, Marcia. However, I think the vocabulary building in MOCKINGBIRD is certainly less random and more character driven. So I didn&#39;t find it author-intrusive.

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