To Kill a Mockingbird

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at
Mon Feb 23 13:18:44 EST 2004

On Sat, 21 Feb 2004 17:38:36 EST, HSchinske at wrote:

>In a message dated 2/21/04 1:25:02 PM Central Standard Time, Melissa Proffitt 

>> No, the objection on my part is that it *isn't* a young adult book.  (Which
>> is exactly the same objection I had during that previous discussion.)  
>Refresh my memory -- why isn't it? I can't offhand see why it shouldn't be. 
>Apologies if we discussed this before and I've forgotten.

Last time I had a big ol' list of the characteristics of YA fiction, but I
don't know where it is.  But in short, the reasons for _To Kill a
Mockingbird_ are first what Sally pointed out, which is the matter of
indefinable tone.  Scout tells her story as an adult looking back on her
past, with an adult's understanding of matters, and not as an
uncomprehending child learning about life as she experiences it.  

Second, YA books tend to have a singleness of purpose when it comes to plot.
This should not be interpreted as a lack of complexity; rather, it means
that a YA book will usually have just one main plotline and all events in
the book happen to further that plot.  Though there is a thematic unity in
the seemingly unrelated scenes in this book (Jem reading to the sick and
addicted old lady, the schoolroom episode in which Scout is told she can't
read until she's been instructed properly), these scenes are peripheral to
the main story line about the trial.  This reflects the kind of storytelling
present in "adult" books; a YA novel about the same thing would ditch the
extraneous stuff and keep coming back to the main plot.  (Or would focus
more carefully on the maturation of Scout and Jem, alternatively.)

For an excellent example of a YA novel on the same topic--and one which
compares favorably to _To Kill a Mockingbird_--I suggest _Mississippi Trial,
1955_ by Chris Crowe.  There, the focus in on the young protagonist, as a
young man becoming an adult, and the plot centers on whether or not he will
reveal what he knows about the murder of a black youth.  There are several
side plots, but all of them are related to the protagonist and the choice he
has to make.

Melissa Proffitt

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