Lucy loves To Kill a Mockingbird. Elena and Michael appreciate it. But they all love Fat Bob, the teacher who recommended it—the teacher who swore it would be the entirety of their summer reading list before he had a heart attack in the cafeteria and died.
Their new teacher inspires significantly less devotion and makes Mockingbird optional. Lucy won’t settle for optional, and she and her friends concoct a savvy social-media event that gets everyone reading it—if they’re lucky enough to find a copy.
In I Kill the Mockingbird, Acampora crafts the friendship between Lucy, Elena and Michael with lovely attention to detail, and they are the kind of brilliant, emotionally mature, bookish teenagers that every teacher adores.
But what’s even more remarkable is the supporting cast. Lucy’s mother has just survived a bout with cancer and her father is a busy Catholic-school principal; Elena lives with her Uncle above the bookstore he owns, and Michael’s single mom nurtures his baseball ambitions with tender devotion. Any one of these adults in another book would have been underdeveloped or overemphasized—and as a result would have pushed against the fabric of the book, would have undercut the main trio’s first steps toward independence. But Acampora has handled all of them believably, enriching the fabric of the main characters’ lives.
Nowhere is this enrichment more obvious than in the tensions the characters face between what is and what should be. Parents shouldn’t get sick or die or go missing, Lucy thinks, but they do, so she has to figure out how. How can her dad maintain a religious faith he considers “good manners” in the face of her mother’s illness? How can her mom return to the role of caregiver when she has spent so long being cared for?
As for what should be: Lucy isn’t too sure, except for one thing. Everyone ought to read To Kill a Mockingbird. And for that, she and her friends have a phenomenal plan.