Bird by Crystal Chan Review – Soaring with grief, sadness and hope

February 5, 2014 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 5 stars, Books, Reviews

Bird by Crystal Chan Review – Soaring with grief, sadness and hopeBird by Crystal Chan
Published by Text Publishing on January 29, 2014
Source: Publisher
Genres: Contemporary, Middle Grade
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Nothing matters. Only Bird matters. And he flew away.

Jewel never knew her brother Bird, but all her life she has lived in his shadow. Her parents blame Grandpa for the tragedy of their family’s past; they say that Grandpa attracted a malevolent spirit—a duppy—into their home. Grandpa hasn't spoken a word since. Now Jewel is twelve, and she lives in a house full of secrets.

Jewel is sure that no one will ever love her like they loved Bird, until the night that she meets a mysterious boy in a tree.

Grandpa is convinced that the boy is a duppy, but Jewel knows that he is something more. And that maybe the time has come to break through the stagnant silence of the past.

Entrenched secrets, mysterious spirits, and an astonishing friendship weave together in this extraordinary and haunting debut.

Bird swooped in, gripped my heart and made it soar with its poignant, heart breaking story rippling with grief, and ending with hope.

Jewel’s story is aching with heart break and lost moments, as her family seem to be a broken shell. She never knew her brother Bird, but feels his presence in everything around her – her family’s grief, her grandpa’s silence and anger, and her private place at the cliff. She’s an unlucky child who was born on the day her 5 year old brother tried to fly off the cliff and lives as a shadow in his former footsteps. All she’s known her whole life is a mum who is perpetually depressed, a father who believes in bad luck and duppies (spirits who bring bad luck) and a grandpa who has never spoken a word.

Delivered through beautiful, lyrical writing that just flows off the page, Bird captures the youth and bewilderment of a 12 year old girl in a grieving family. Jewel is just beginning to understand her struggling identity and family’s flaws, so when she meets John, a boy who shares Bird’s namesake, she finds someone who can finally understand her.

I didn’t trust myself to speak. How come my parents, who I’ve known all my life, didn’t understand why I come to this place, but John, who I met just a couple days ago, did? How can trying to make someone understand take more than a lifetime, and someone else less than an instant?

The characters are all flawed but in a realistic way, with Jewel’s family full of quirks and superstition, John coasting between being unlikable and likable, and Jewel herself both loving and hating her family. Seeing the characters slowly evolve over the course of the book was an absolute delight, as Jewel finally learns who she can trust and finds an unlikely friend in her grandpa. I’m still ambivalent about John, who would say disrespectful things about her family here and there, but then again, was a real friend to Jewel.

I’ve never read a book that featured Jamaican superstitions and traditions which was such an unusual, magical world for me. Duppies, superstitious charms and curses all have a play in the story along with reggae music and lots of rice.

The sky was never so big. I felt like an ant making my way over the dark earth as I ran on the finely ground gravel road, up the little swelling hill, and then back down it on the other side.

In a strange, uplifting turn of events, the book ends on a high note that makes the journey worth it. Bird is a stunning debut about a lost girl in a grieving family transforming into one who finally finds her place and makes peace. The emotion of the novel is felt through its every word, it’s beauty witnessed in its prose, and the growth of its characters, death defying.

I thoroughly enjoyed the journey that Bird took me on, and I think you will too.

Thank you to Text Publishing for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Rating: 5 out of 5

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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Twitter @happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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52 responses to “Bird by Crystal Chan Review – Soaring with grief, sadness and hope

  1. I added this book on my tbr list in 2012 I think (it's been a while). I've anticipated it for so long and my anticipation has built with every positive review and then one of my favorite childhood authors wrote a blurb (is that what it's called? I cannot remember) for it… and I am not sure I can handle this book. Said author left a huge impact on me and wrote an emotionally wrenching book… and from all the reviews, I get the feeling this book will break my heart a billion time.

    It has such a pretty cover though (shallow human being I is).

    I am really excited to read this, especially after hearing about the Jamaican aspect.

    Wonderful Review, Jeann!!

  2. The characters in this one sound absolutely phenomenal. I love realistic characters with whom you can relate and empathize, especially with important and powerful emotional stories. Lovely review, girl!

  3. Wow this sounds so sad and emotional! I'm not even sure I could read it. Since I had a kid, stories about kids who die or have terrible things happen is just so hard for me to read and they truly affect me in ways that troubles my sleep for days and weeks. I know it's fiction but I keep imagining myself in that mother's shoes you know. But it does sound like a beautifully written story that would def. be memorable. The Jamaican superstitions and traditions is unique, too. We went to Jamaica for our honeymoon so I'm curious what those are! Great review, love!
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    • Ah, I totally know what you mean Giselle, the maternal instincts would kick in making you feel sad. It is definitely a beautiful story, and I'm really glad it was uplifting in the end. Oooh Jamaica for your honeymoon must have been such an experience, so many different sights and sounds! Sounds amazing!

  4. That is a BEAUTIFUL cover!! I don't usually read middle grade books, but this sounds great. I'm curious about he Jamaican superstitions. That sounds interesting! I'm glad to hear that the book ended on a high note! I always enjoy that =)
    Stephanie (Hopeless recently posted…Review: UnhingedMy Profile

  5. Wow! I've heard nothing but praise for this book, and I'm so glad that you enjoyed it as well Jeann! I'm definitely going to have to give it a try! The amazing character development and the beautiful, lyrical writing definitely has me intrigued! Thanks for putting this under my radar, and, as always, awesome review Jeann!
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  6. Aww I've heard nothing but fantastic reviews for this book and I really want to start it soon. From how beautiful the writing sounds, I'm definitely already hooked because I never read books that has pretty writing, and I really want to start trying out more of them. I also love flawed, well developed characters that manage to really make you feel emotion. Fantastic review, Jeann! <33
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  7. I love a good family drama/issue book and Mel said that she loved it as well. The writing, the concept, the flawed characters–everything about it just seems so sad, yet intriguing and I'm sure that I'd like it a lot as well. I love the quotes you chose, btw 🙂 Glad you enjoyed it!
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  8. Oh, wow, Jeann!

    This just sounds so hauntingly beautiful and I'm really intrigued by the superstitions and traditions Jewel's family have. Just another layer to what appears to be an sincere and multifaceted read!

    Thanks for the beautiful review 🙂 I'm looking forward to getting around to this one
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  9. I am SUCH a fan of this book. It was heartbreaking and beautiful all at once. I seriously ached with Jewel. She was so sweet, though! N'awww. I'm just going to be here, hugging my copy. I was pretty interested in it's talk about duppies and Jamaican beliefs, because honestly I've never read anything like that! I like it when books do new things. (Although after that twist with her friend John…I couldn't help thinking of Flynn Rider in Tangled XD)
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