I guess it takes me back to the days when teachers put gold stars on your work…I can’t resist posting this English teacher’s review of The Absolute Value of Mike:
From “Ms. Terra” on Barnes & Noble website — THANK YOU, MS. TERRA (and I’ll hand in my next paper very soon): :o)
A Must-Have for Parents and Teachers!
I have been anxiously awaiting the next book from Kathryn Erskine since the release of Mockingbird. As a middle school literature teacher, I have found that her books are ideal for addressing tough topics with today’s youth in a sensitive and thoughtful manner. The Absolute Value of Mike is the best book I’ve read all year, and I have already ordered a class set to kick off the next school year. The protagonist, Mike, faces a difficult family dynamic with a mother who has passed away and father who is an academic genius, but who can’t connect with people. Mike is pressured to excel in math, the only standard of success his father seems to value. When his father goes overseas for the summer, he leaves Mike with elderly relatives and the expectation that Mike will flourish working on an engineering project. Mike does flourish, but under completely different circumstances.
Erskine’s characters are brilliantly multi-dimensional, creatively contrived and endearingly flawed. A seemingly homeless man named Past, a disgruntled old man who refuses to move or talk, an eighty-something tiny fireball of a woman named Moo, a beautiful, highly-tattooed bank teller with abandonment issues, an old car decorated with vintage movie posters named Tyrone, and a 15-pound bag named Junior make up a portion of the cast Mike encounters in this coming-of-age saga.
While the topics in this book are serious and relevant to today’s young adults, they are addressed in a manner that is tasteful and appropriate. Financial difficulties, death, senility, learning disabilities, domestic violence, adoption, and homelessness are some of the conflicts faced by the characters in The Absolute Value of Mike, but Erskine navigates each issue gracefully, with compassion and empathy. I was grateful, as an English teacher, to find that there is no foul language or controversial material in this book. I believe this novel would be a perfect addition to any classroom or home library for adolescents, teachers, and parents. Five stars.