Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Reviewed by Simone Rogers, age 17

To Kill a Mockingbird, a novel set during the Great Depression, touches on love, humor, cruelty and kindness. The mockingbird is an important symbol in the book. It represents innocence accused of wrong doing.
Atticus, a single father, and his two kids, Jem, and Scout live in the small town Maycomb, Alabama. Jem is Scout’s older brother by four years, and Scout is the narrator of the story. The family has a housekeeper, Calpurnia, who fills in the maternal role after the children’s mom passed away.
Atticus is a lawyer who defends a black man, Tom Robinson, accused of sexually assaulting and beating a white woman. Atticus wants to teach his kids to see everyone as an equal despite living in a racist white community. Jem and Scout experience tormenting racial comments at school because most of the people in the town assume Tom Robinson guilty of the crime.
The author does not try to limit the narrator’s voice with her vocabulary and power of expression by using dialect of that era. During this time African Americans were referred to as Negroes and were often called the “N” word by whites.
The lessons taught in the book are about being open-minded, protecting the innocent, taking the moral high road, equality and respecting others. Being open-minded, Atticus prevents his kids from thinking of the point of view of well-off white children of good connections.  Protecting the innocent means being true to what you feel is right, and helping those who are discriminated against. Sometimes you have to take the moral high ground accepting that you may be discriminated against for doing so. Equality is treating everyone as a human being. Despite personal disagreements Atticus treats all people with courtesy and acting on a basic human rights.
I think this book is best suited for high school students because of the way it is written and the author’s use of historically correct language.