This novel proves that Kathryn Erskine is a very versatile author. Her first book Quaking was about a Goth girl who goes to live with a Quaker family. Her second book Mockingbird won the National Book Award in 2011 was about a girl with Asperger’s syndrome trying to come to terms with the loss of her brother.
The Absolute Value of Mike is about fourteen year old Mike who despairs that he is not as smart as his math and engineering genius father. Mike who is trying to find his own way in life is sent to live in Pennsylvania for six weeks with his octogenarian great-aunt and great-uncle to help with an engineering project –the building an artesian screw. The story however takes a humorous turn when it is realised that the project has nothing to do with math or engineering.
The variety of characters Mike encounters in Pennsylvania and his ability to connect to them is in sharp contrast to his ability to connect to his father. Also Erskine is remarkable in the way she is able to change the tone and theme of her book. One moment she has you laughing out loud and the next moment she sets you thinking about the underlining seriousness of relationships and grief.
Review by Janice
image by Dougtone