The World According to Renee

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Review: Bird

Cover of young adult novel, Bird, by Crystal Chan

Jewel has been living with the ghost of her deceased brother her entire life. After twelve years, her family are still shattered by Bird’s death. Is it too late to fix her broken family?

Bird is a novel targeted at young adults, however adults will also find something in the novel’s messages. The novel is reminiscent of Judy Blume’s Tiger Eyes with similar themes: grief tearing a family apart, a secret, sacred place where nature speaks, and how sometimes people just need to figure life out on their own.

The main theme of the novel is identity. Jewel feels like the unwanted burden in her family, born the day her older brother tried to fly off a cliff. Her mother is sad and angry, her father hides behind superstition, her grandfather cursed not to speak since the day Bird died.

Identity is important to Jewel; she does not know who she is within this broken family. She meets a boy who has his own identity issues. As a black boy adopted into a while family, he has never felt part of his own family either. He invents an identity to befriend Jewel, ultimately betraying he with his lies.

I really liked this novel. I loved the imagery and Jewel’s narrative of how the cliff’s secrets speak to her. Having an interest in science, I did find a couple of paragraphs I wanted to draw a red line through and send back with a “This needs more research!” Written in the margin… but that’s just me being pedantic. I loved how both John and Jewel want to be scientists when they grow up. I loved their intelligent conversations about geology and space exploration (except for the bits which were clearly and obviously wrong). Their friendship was platonic, which was refreshing: usually Young Adult novels with a twelve year old protagonist revolve around how cute the boy is and which lip gloss she imagined he’d like to taste when he kissed her.

If you loved Tiger Eyes, you will also love Bird.

8 out of 10 bookmarks


February 3, 2018 Posted by | Reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: 13 Reasons Why (novel)


This post discusses suicide, depression and violence against women. If this post triggers any harmful thoughts or feelings for you, please seek immediate professional help.

This post also contains spoilers.

Once upon a time, there was a teenager named Hannah Baker. If you’ve recently watched the Netflix series, you know what’s coming. Or do you?

The novel isn’t new; it was released way back in 2007. Still outside the era for recording cassette tapes, may I add. It came to the attention of Selena Gomez, who produced the filmed version.

The novel is told from Clay’s viewpoint as he listens to each tape. Hannah’s words are differentiated from Clay’s in italics, with Clay’s reactions intertwined. This is where the similarities to the series end. The book offers no outside timeline- what the characters think and feel about their own tapes is never mentioned. In fact, these characters don’t exist outside of the tapes. The only time Clay comes into contact with someone other than Tony is when he’s outside Tyler’s window and runs into Marcus. There’s no plot against Clay, there’s no subplot of Clay’s mother being involved in the civil case, there’s no grieving parents and no mention of Tony being gay.

There are other differences too: Clay gives away everything in the first chapter. Jenny Kurtz is the cheerleader who fells the stop sign. Hannah’s parents run a shoe store and took Hannah’s body back to their home town to bury her. Hannah committed suicide by overdose. Clay’s tape happens at the beginning of the party, not the end.

I don’t think the narrative is a particularly good one. What I loved about the series is that each character was presented in time and left you wondering what they did for Hannah to include them on her tapes. The novel doesn’t really lead you anywhere. They’re just names on a tape. There’s no connection with anyone except Hannah and Clay. What’s more, I gave up caring.

At the end of the version I read (Kindle), there’s a Q&A with the author, Jay Asher. He explains the concept of the story, how the idea came to him and why he wrote Clay interjecting with Hannah’s story. He even reveals the original title for the novel: Baker’s Dozen: The AudioBiography of Hannah Baker.

I don’t know what Selena Gomez saw in the novel in order to make it a series, but I’m glad she did. Most times, the novel is so much better than the filmed adaptation, but in this case, the series is the much better offering. Skip this and watch it instead.

2 out of 5 bookmarks.


April 28, 2017 Posted by | Reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment