My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Published: March 20th, 2018
Publisher: Little, Brown BFYR
Recommended Age: 14+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Magical Realism, Family History, Romance, Culture
Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird. Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.
Some books you read because they’re not unpleasant or you don’t have a choice in the matter.
Other books you read because your body naturally gravitates to them, and for the sake of your sanity, you simply give in.
This is one of those books. The writing is so evocative that you will feel the intensity of everything the main character goes through to the marrow of your bones and be able to picture it all in your mind like a movie.
Normally, a story this long and slow would take me around a week to finish. Unlike the majority of you think, I don’t read fast. At all. I just read… a lot. But even if this novel lacks actual action, its words are a kind of beautiful that makes you overlook weaknesses. And besides, it is character-driven and there’s nothing wrong about that.
It’s also a magical realism story, but one that is in no way going to confuse you to the point where you’ll be tempted to give up on trying to understand the elements pertaining to the fantasy genre. Feng’s character is a bit funky, but other than that, I absolutely adored all characters and magical elements included here, especially the bird, of course.
The author does a fantastic job of three-dimensionalizing Leigh and her deceased mother, Dory. More often than not, I feel little connection to fictional people that passed away before I had gotten a chance to know them, but because we learn about Dory’s past gradually, the author going back to the root of the family drama, I couldn’t help but sympathize and understand what she went through.
Not only that, but the author never romanticizes depression or mental illness in general. There are, as mentioned, unrealistic elements, but these are tied to Leigh’s reaction to her mother’s death and the latter’s wish for her daughter to be exposed to her family history, something she was denied in the past.
Waves of happiness are running through me as I’m pondering the fact that this is a debut. This means that, logically speaking, more books from this author are to come! And isn’t that one strong reason to look forward to the future?
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