Tree branches spell out the title in front of a giant moon while the silhouette of a girl stares at it, holding a flower.

About the Book

Title: To Kill a Mockingbird
Published: 1960
Swoonworthy Scale: 1

Drinks Taken: 234 Drinks, 6 Shots, 15 Chugs
BFF Charm: Heck Yes, True Love
Talky Talk: You Can Go Home Again
Offenses To My Ladylike Sensibilities: Offensive Language, Racism, Unsuitable To Age Groups
Relationship Status: Twins Separated At Birth

The Deal:

Is there anyone out there who hasn’t read this book and actually needs the deal explained to them? If so, I feel sorry for you and your choices in life. Okay, here’s the deal: Jem (Jeremy Atticus) and Scout (Jean Louise) Finch are the luckiest children in the entire world. Why? Because they have hot, moral, strong, quiet, lovely, swoonworthy Atticus Finch as their dad! And Truman Capote as a playmate! And Robert Duvall as a neighbor! But I’m getting ahead of myself.

In the deep South of Maycomb, Alabama, Jem and Scout Finch are in the process of growing up, as kids have a tendency to do. They spend their summers running roughshod over the neighborhood, avoiding the loving swats and acid tongue of their housekeeper Calpurnia, listening to tall tales spun by their friend Dill, and being fascinated by Boo Radley, the possibly murderous recluse who lives down the street. Scout, our impestuous, incorrigible narrator, is freakishly intelligent and therefore hates school, and spends much of her time trying to best her older brother and turning her nose up at “girl stuff.”

Their idyllic childhood is shattered, however, when their father Atticus, a lawyer, defends Tom Robinson, a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. Soon, old friends and neighbors and pompous family members are turning on the Finches, calling them the sort of names you’d expect, and exposing the dark underbelly of small town racism, in which everyone gets along just fine, as long as you don’t disturb the order of things. (Gee, I’m so glad that sort of thing doesn’t still happen today.)

Drinks Taken: 234 Drinks, 6 Shots (It’s #4 on the Top 10 List of Banned Books for 2009), 15 Chugs

Oof. Okay, so, this book is most typically banned because of the racist language, which is hysterical, because it is, you know, a book about racism. I suppose instead we could have a book about racism in which everyone spoke in PC terms designed to make people think that they weren’t racist at all, but To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960, and Fox News wasn’t around at that point. But, so, YEAH, there’s a lot of words that’ll make you flinch in this book. It’s SORT OF THE POINT OF THE BOOK. But hey, maybe I’m being too hard on the dickweeds who want to ban this amazing book from schools and libraries! Maybe they actually are precognizant and figured out the rules of the FYA Banned Books Week Drinking Game, like, decades ago, and have been playing it ever since and too many young kids died of alcohol poisoning and so that’s why they’re banning it? Because, folks? I CAN ACTUALLY FEEL MY KIDNEYS RIGHT NOW. And they’re saying, “Ow!” in a very small, weak voice.

BFF Charm: Heck Yes, True Love

BFF Charm Heck Yes - sparklier and shinier than the original BFF Charm

I gave my BFF charm to Scout Finch nearly two decades ago, and I’ve never looked back. Oh, sure, she sort of sneered at it, and bit the charm to see if it was real gold, but in the end she agreed to wear it. And BFFs we totally are! You can’t do much better in a friend than Scout Finch, who will bash someone’s head in if they say anything bad about you, and let you have some of the gum and string in Boo’s hiding spot, and will let you join her as she runs around with Jem and Dill during the long sticky days of summer. I always wonder what Scout would grow up like, and I think I know: smarter than anyone around her, just a little course, and willing to tell everyone exactly what she thinks. So, basically, like every other kickass Southern woman I know.

BFF charm that says "true love"

And, although we’ve never done this before, I feel the need to extend my BFF charm to Atticus Finch as well. But, instead of it saying “Best Friends,” I’ve modified it to say “True Love.” Oh, Atticus Finch. Your moral uprightness is SO HOT!

Swoonworthy Scale: 1 . . . or 10

Well, this is a story about a 9 year old girl, her big brother, and their dad, so it’s not really Swoon Central. Technically, Scout is engaged to be married to Dill, which will work out fine for another year or so, but when they both figure out that he’s gay, it’ll probably get a little awkward.

But, then again, how can I rate a book so low on the swoonworthy scale when it has one of the most swoonworthy characters of all time?? ATTICUS FINCH MAKE BABIES WITH ME. AND THEN RAISE THEM TO BE EXCELLENT CITIZENS OF THE WORLD!

Talky Talk: You Can Go Home Again

There are two types of Southern Gothic novels: those written by someone born and raised in the South, and those written by Other People. I don’t have truck with any Southern novel not written by a native, because they inevitably end up misusing words and phrases like “y’all,” “yonder,” “reckon,” “fixin’ to,” and “knee high to a grasshopper.” And then it’s just awful and I feel like my eyes are bleeding and I end up screaming at the book “WE DON’T TALK LIKE THAT. YOU AIN’T GOT THE GOOD SENSE GOD GAVE YA!”

Luckily, however, To Kill a Mockingbird is 100% true authentic Southern voice, from the description of lazy summer afternoons to mimosa trees to knowin’ you’re licked ‘fore you begin, but beginnin’ anyway. And when I read it, no matter where I am, I know I’m home.

Offenses To My Ladylike Sensibilities: Offensive Language, Racism, Unsuited To Age Group

Why, I declare! Reading this book ruined my life! Why! The language! Scout says heck and damn! And the N word! It’s everywhere! Even though, as Atticus says:

It’s never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn’t hurt you.

Still! I don’t want my children reading a book in which racist people say racist things! They might start thinking that racism exists! Racism, as we all know, is exactly like Beetlejuice. If you don’t talk about it, that means it isn’t really there! And there’s certainly nothing to be gained from reading a book in which a white person falsely accuses a black person of a crime, or a POC is the target of hate crimes, or a POC has the criminal court system stacked against him. Because those things never happen anymore! What’s past is past! Let’s all hug each other and have a Coke!

Casting Call:

To Kill a Mockingbird, the movie, is – while not as great as the book – pretty damn great. I can’t expand upon the original, folks, so:

Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch


Mary Badham as Scout

I just love her little face!

Phillip Alford as Jem

Phillip Alford actually reminds me of this kid I went to school with. I should have started calling that kid Jem.

And, just for giggles:

Truman Capote as Dill

God, he was so hot.

Relationship Status: Twins Separated At Birth

This book is my mother’s favorite book. It’s my friend’s favorite book. It’s one of my favorite books. You get the picture. As long as I’ve been able to read, this book has been sitting on some bookshelf, and for a long time in my youth, I felt as if it were just waiting for me. Waiting for me to be a bit older, waiting for me to have some time, just waiting. And, when I finally read it for the first time*, I felt like I’d known it all my life. From Scout’s refusal to embrace traditional gender roles to the games she and Jem and Dill would make up to the pride and loyalty of the people around them and, yes, to the soul-destroying racism and hatred expressed by some of those same people – the places and people in this book are my places and people. And while I’m not blind to some of its flaws, I truly love it for all that it is, was, and can be.

*And I read it when I was 12, and instead of being emotionally scarred by the language, I was galvanized to fight against racism and hatred wherever I find it, which FYI, is the point of the book, SO STICK IT IN YOUR PIE HOLES, YOU DUMBASS PEOPLE WHO BANNED THIS BOOK.

FTC Full Disclosure: I purchased my review copy myself. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). To Kill a Mockingbird is available now.

Erin is loud, foul-mouthed, an unrepentant lover of trashy movies and believes that champagne should be an every day drink.