Kathy Erskine wrote my favorite book of last year (and winner of the National Book Award for juvenile literature), MOCKINGBIRD. Her follow-up novel, The Absolute Value of Mike, hits shelves today.
Mike is the child of a single father, an engineer, who suddenly has to travel to Romania for work, and decides that Mike should spend the summer with aging, eccentric relatives.
Life with Poppy and Moo takes a lot of getting used to. But soon, Mike gets involved in a project -- raising money to help a local pastor adopt a child from Romania. And along the way, Mike ends up helping several other people in town, too. And he finally tells his dad that he's just not interested in math and engineering, and Dad is OK with it.
Mike is an enjoyable story, and I liked seeing him (and his father) come to the realization that people are gifted in different ways, and that having a learning disability in math doesn't mean that one will be crippled for life.
I didn't fall in love with this book the way I did with MOCKINGBIRD, though. I think Mike himself just didn't feel as real to me -- he seemed out of the ordinary for a 14-year-old boy. I don't know many 14-year-old boys who are so community-minded and relate so well to adults! Then again, I suppose he would be different, given that his father is both highly intelligent and displays many characteristics of Asperger's Syndrome (never mentioned explicitly, but it's there). Mike is used to having to take care of his absent-minded father, so he feels he has to take care of others, too.
But I and my 11-year-old daughter enjoyed reading this book, and I can recommend it!
Visit author Kathryn Erskine on the web at kathyerskine.com.