Saturday, November 29, 2014

I Kill the Mockingbird, by Paul Acampora

In the summer before they start high school, three friends decide to honor their late English teacher by hatching a plot to incite a mass movement for reading his favorite book -- Harper Lee's classic To Kill A Mockingbird.  The kids reason that if they can make the book seem controversial, they can artificially stir interest in it.  Learning that modern bookstore chains are incapable of tracking books that are mis-shelved, they trigger an artificial shortage by simply hiding copies of the books in every large bookstore in Connecticut. Their action inspires copy-cats nationwide and, before they know it, the whole thing has swung wildly out of control.

I liked the concept and eagerly dived into this short middle reader. The characters were smart and funny and I expected cleverness. But the book gets a bit too precious for my taste.  First of all, there's the very weird idea that To Kill A Mockingbird could go viral.  Weirder still, the way it is done (can you really manage in a few weeks to travel all over the state, misplace every copy of a book, and not get caught?).  Perhaps none of this matters and perhaps this absurdity is all supposed to be in fun, like a Kate DiCamillo book.  But it's really just silly and what is the point anyway?  There are a number of great opportunities to say something (about literature, growing up, romance, or even cancer) but Acampora just wants to be goofy and convince us that (since the book is about good literature) it must somehow be valuable intrinsically. But it never did it for me.

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