Monday, October 14, 2013

ARC Review: Bird - Crystal Chan

A copy was provided by the publisher
in exchange for
an honest review.
Bird by Crystal Chan
Genre: Middle Grade, contemporary
Published on January 30, 2014
Published by Tamarind
Pages: 416
Read From: 10.8.13 - 10.9.13

Nothing matters. Only Bird matters. And he flew away. 

Jewel never knew her brother, Bird, but all her life she has lived in his shadow. Her parents blame Grandpa for Bird's death; they say that Grandpa attracted a malevolent spirit - a duppy - who tricked Bird into thinking he really could fly. Grandpa hasn't spoken a word since. Now Jewel is twelve, and she lives in a house full of anger, secrets, and impenetrable silence. 
But one night, everything changes when Jewel meets a mysterious boy sitting in her favorite tree. Grandpa is convinced that the boy is a duppy, but Jewel knows that he is something more. And that maybe - just maybe - the time has come to break through the layers of silence that shroud the past.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? There's nothing very exciting about the cover art, and normally I wouldn't pay it much mind. But I do have a thing for silhouettes, and once I saw the silhouette I decided to read the synopsis. And that's what really caught my attention. Intrigue-level aside, it is aesthetically pleasing. I love the blue-purple color and the watercolor style of it.

Characters: Jewel was easy to emotionally connect with. She tries to do everything her parents ask of her, including never talking about what happened to her brother, and they constantly ignore her and never listen to what she needs or wants. Normally, a character in this situation can come across as bratty, but I totally sympathized with Jewel and really didn't like her parents all that much - especially her mom. It took me a while to warm to the "mysterious boy" - John. He had a great sense of humor and listened to Jewel like a good friend, but at times he was too disrespectful of Jewel's house and its rules. It made me want to slap it him, but overall he was a cool character.

The Romance: There isn't any! I was worried at first reading about a "mysterious boy," but all Jewel and John have is a really good friendship.

Plot: Everyone knows that it's Grandpa's fault that Jewel's brother Bird died when he was five. If Grandpa hadn't given him that nickname, it wouldn't have attracted a mischievous spirit - a duppy - that convinced Bird that he could actually fly. And Bird would not have leaped off that cliff. Ever since that day, Grandpa has never said another word. And on the day that Bird died and Grandpa lost his voice, Jewel was born. All her life, her family has been cast in shadows and sorrow because of Bird's death. No one will talk about it and her parents are too wrapped up in their old grief to pay much attention to their daughter. Jewel has learned to keep her hopes and dreams to herself. She's definitely never told her parents that she visits the cliff where her brother died and buries pebbles for every concern and dream she ever has. One summer, though, things change. Jewel finds a boy sitting in her favorite tree, named John - the same name as her brother. Grandpa is convinced that John is an evil duppy come to take Jewel away, while her dad believes he at least is a bad omen. But Jewel thinks that John is something much more; a chance to change her life. John listens to her dreams for the future and he shows her how to laugh again. But she can't deny the odd coincidence of his name being the same as Bird's, or that the silence in her household has grown into anger and malice. Is John a duppy or just a boy trying to change Jewel's life for the better? When I first read the synopsis for Bird, I thought it either would be inspirational or would take a dark and twisted turn with the whole duppy concept. It took the first path. While there certainly is more to John than at first meets the eye, this is mostly an inspirational story about a young girl fighting to be heard in a family swept in unimaginable grief. I don't like inspirational reads. Nine times out of ten, they're depressing and have no real purpose. However, Bird wasn't one of those. I connected so deeply with Jewel and had such moments of frustration with her parents that I couldn't help but be swept away by the story. It was a very emotionally charged book. I don't normally get into books like that, but there was just something about this one that wormed its way into my heart.

Believability: Nothing to complain about.

Writing Style: First person, past tense. Jewel has an excellent narration voice. It's emotional, it's hopeful, it's filled with pain and a burning need to be seen by her family. The descriptions are rich and deep; I just couldn't help but be pulled in by it. I felt Jewel's emotions almost as if they were my own, and that's hard to do in a story - to get your Readers to feel everything the protagonist does.

Content: None.

Conclusion: Probably the most emotionally charged moment in the book, and also surprisingly intense. I felt Jewel's fury building and I knew it would end it relative disaster. However, this isn't a bittersweet ending - not exactly. And that's part of why I liked Bird so much. I hate inspirational reads that end with everyone dying of illness or killing themselves. This isn't one of those. Every once in a while, I will find an inspirational read that I actually like. Bird was amazing; I laughed, I cried, I got incredibly angry at certain characters, and fell in love with others. There was just nothing about Bird that I didn't like.

Recommended Audience: Girl-read, really appropriate for any age, though this is a Middle Grade read that will appeal more to adults. Fans of inspirational reads will love it.

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