Author: Jess Vallance
Published by: Hot Key Books
Publication date: 2nd July 2015
Pages: 272, paperback
Genre: YA, thriller
Frances Bird has been a loner for so long that she’s given up on ever finding real friendship. But then she’s asked to show a new girl around school, and she begins to think her luck could finally be changing.
Eccentric, talkative and just a little bit posh, Alberta is not at all how Frances imagined a best friend could be. But the two girls click immediately, and it’s not long before they are inseparable. Frances could not be happier.
As the weeks go on, Frances finds out more about her new best friend – her past, her secrets, her plans for the future – and she starts to examine their friendship more closely.
Is it, perhaps, just too good to be true?
In my post ‘New York Times By the Book Tag‘, I’d said that the next book I wanted to read was Birdy by Jess Vallance. I don’t read many stories that focus on friendships (I tend to lean more towards the romance or fantasy sides of YA), but I was really looking forward to reading this one. Upon consulting the useful pie chart in the bottom corner of the blurb, I discovered that this book was about friendship, obsession, trauma and . . . blackbirds?
Let’s start with friendship. Personally, I really liked Frances and Alberta’s friendship – at least in the beginning. It was interesting, because it could’ve been viewed as a case of ‘opposites attract’, but I don’t think that was the case with these two girls. I think they became friends out of convenience, but the way it was written didn’t make it seem any less genuine (again, at least in the beginning). The way the two girls naturally bonded was heartwarming, and I was really rooting for Frances with her newfound friendship.
And then, very subtly, the obsession theme in the novel started to make more and more frequent appearances. I’ll be honest – I was watching diligently for signs of neurotic behaviour from Alberta for most of the novel. I think it’s an indication of brilliant writing that as a reader, I was completely immersed in Frances’ point of view. A lot of her actions, which after taking a step back seemed insane, seemed totally justified when engaged in her mindset.
I thought that as the story began to tie together towards the end of the novel, trauma played a big part, however the majority of the book was relatively trauma-free. A bit of tension, a lot of drama, but trauma? Not so much. I’d count it as part of the climax, but I’m not sure that I’d count it as one of the main themes of the novel. I do wish that we’d seen a little more of Alberta at the end, but I still think the ending was perfect.
As for the blackbirds: they turned out to be a symbol of Frances and Alberta’s friendship. Whether they were being drawn and redrawn on their hands, or hung around each other’s necks on necklaces, this was a clever way of following the concoction of friendship and obsession these girls struggle through throughout the novel. After looking it up, I also found out that blackbirds have connotations with secrecy, and are sometimes thought of as a bad omen, which I thought fitted this book very well.
This novel was interesting, clever, and gave another outlook on unhealthy relationships that hasn’t been tackled much in YA yet. Even if Birdy does not fall into the type of genres you usually read, as with me, I would still 100% recommend you branch out and give this book a read.