Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Book Review: I Am No Bird

A friend of mine published her first book, I Am No Bird! I promised her I would write a review when I finished, which was technically about two months ago, but now that school is over I could actually fulfill my promise. I am constantly amazed at what talented friends I have, and Kayleen is no exception. Enjoy the review, and if you can, check out her book!

I Am No Bird, by Kayleen Barlow is a book about self-discovery, overcoming great loss, and the impact books can on your life. London, one of the two main characters, is a high school English teacher who is short and often confused for being a Freshman. She has a fierce, almost obsessive love for books which also act as her closest friends after a terrible loss earlier in her life keeps her from getting too close to those around her. When a romantic interest enters the scene, she has to learn to take her nose out of her books and open herself up to possible hurt.

Marie, the second character, is a high school student who is orphaned after her mother commits suicide. She lives with her boyfriend, who is borderline abusive, and has no dreams for her life beyond finishing high school and working in the repair shop with her guy. When Marie finds Jane Eyre, the book her mother read over and over again in her final days, Marie opens its pages in search of finding the answer to her mother's death. As a result, Marie discovers a love for books, self-respect, and a desire to seek out a future for herself.
The chapters oscillate between London and Marie as they slowly grow and move out of their comfort zones. Because the chapters go back and forth like that, it took a little while for me to settle into the story but I was soon drawn into the opposite yet similar struggles that each character faced. Kayleen did an excellent job crafting the chapters to work almost like pairs, so the experiences or actions of Marie complimented those of London.

London was a difficult character for me because she seemed especially pathetic. This is probably due in part because the abuse she encountered in the hallways at school for being short (and therefore confused for a freshman? There are short seniors in the world. Why is this school so biased against short people???) seemed over dramatized and unlike anything I've ever heard of. She might be short, but she is a teacher and there must be some students out there who recognize her. On the other hand, I quite admired Marie and her journey. She very noticeably grew and changed as the book progressed.

The book ends with a brilliant surprise that I absolutely did not see coming; however, in trying to keep the twist a surprise, a couple points along the way were confusing and a little frustrating. Despite any problems, it was a fantastic idea that, when revealed, added a new layer of meaning to the book as a whole.

I appreciated that, to me, the story seemed to express something that so many happily-ever-after stories forget to mention: that life goes on and often the things we've leaned on to help us through a difficult time can, if we aren't careful, turn into a crutch that can cause a different kind of harm that we then have to work our way through. All the while, we learn and grow. It may not be happily-ever-after, but there is hope.

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