The Meaning of Birds  – Jaye Robin Brown

  The Meaning of Birds  – Jaye Robin Brown, Harper Teen; (9780062824448), 2019

Format: hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4.5

Genre: realistic fiction

What did you like about the book? Jess Perez has struggled with anger ever since her father died in Afghanistan when she was younger. Coming out as gay only made her more of a target in her small town.  In her sophomore year, a new student named Vivi comes into her life and gives her a reason to look forward to each day. Vivi and Jess start dating; Vivi helps Jess manage her anger and encourages her considerable (but largely untapped) artistic talent. The two have normal relationship struggles like how much to do sexually and how to integrate their relationship into their already existing friend circles. In their senior year, however, all this comes crashing to a halt when Vivi dies unexpectedly from an asthma attack. Jess is lost without Vivi; she binge drinks and gives into her anger in ways she hasn’t in years. When Jess gets into a big fight, she’s sent to an alternative school program where her work study program gives her an outlet for her anger. The book is written in “then” and “now” chapters that beautifully capture how Jess grows emotionally over time. Secondary characters like Jess’ best friend Cheyanne, her sister Nina, her new friend Levi, and even her cat “Emma Watson” are all fully fleshed out. The Meaning of Birds is a beautifully written heartbreaking book about love and loss.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Students who enjoy sad books that deeply explore the grief of losing a loved one.

Anything you didn’t like about it?  It’s maybe too sad. It was hard to read. 

Who should buy this book? Recommended for all high school libraries

Where would you shelve it? Realistic fiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? If you like desperately sad books, then yes.

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Laura Gardner, Dartmouth Middle School, Dartmouth, MA

Date reviewed: December 20, 2019


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