Review: “Mockingbird,” Chuck Wendig

Pros: The world has gotten so much stranger!
Rating: 5 out of 5

Chuck Wendig’s Mockingbird (Miriam Black Book 2) is the follow-on to the wonderful Blackbirds. Miriam Black is a psychic with one, very obnoxious ability: the first time she touches someone skin-to-skin, she sees how they will die. Over the years she found that no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t prevent someone’s death–until she discovered somewhat accidentally that as long as she sacrifices a life, she can save a life. She discovers this when she kills the man who is torturing and about to kill Louis, her friend. Now, Louis has caused her to settle down, living in a trailer park and working as a cashier at a store. Unfortunately, it’s killing Miriam’s wanderer spirit. (She used to hitchhike, follow people she knew would die soon, and take their valuables when they kicked off.) She’s even bowing to Louis’s desire for her to wear gloves so she doesn’t find out about anyone’s deaths. One day her manager fires her for her attitude, and she decides to ditch the gloves. What she sees and does next will catapult her right back into dealing with her abilities. She ends up visiting a boarding school for troubled girls, where she discovers that several of the girls are fated to be killed by a serial killer. Of course that’s supposed to happen a couple of years hence, so how is she supposed to figure out who the killer is now?

The mysterious powers that pushed at Miriam toward the end of Blackbirds amp up their game. They make it very clear they expect her to get involved and kick fate’s ass. They even appear to someone else at one point, and they start to interfere beyond merely giving confusing instructions. Miriam meets another psychic who has a similarly unusual and specific ability and who uses it to alter fate. The question is, is this someone essentially doing the same thing she is but from a different angle, or is this someone doing something altogether terrible? We also find out how Miriam first developed her ability, which is a dark and troubling story.

One of my favorite parts of this book was watching Miriam have to repeatedly find ways to sneak in and out of the Caldecott School, trying something a little different every time. There’s some entertaining material in here.

The relationship between Louis and Miriam is also interesting. Louis doesn’t want Miriam to give in to using her abilities, and he’s trying to decide if he can come to terms with her using them or not. The two have an on-again off-again relationship that makes sense given how utterly and completely different they are. Miriam has a tendency to say and do things that hurt Louis, largely because she feels trapped by his desire for her to lead a more “normal” life.

I really liked everything surrounding the other psychic Miriam meets and how they do their thing. The whole story and background and structure of it is really fascinating. I hope we’ll get to see more things like this as we continue the series, because the worldbuilding is really neat.

Content note for violence and death. I should also note that Miriam is sometimes a bit problematic (she makes inappropriate and offensive jokes sometimes), but I never get the feeling Wendig is condoning her attitudes. Instead she very much comes across as a work-in-progress who definitely has room to grow and learn.

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