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I was hoping to like this novel because of the blurb and the reviews. But I was sorely disappointed. I thought the idea was great to have a non-Caucasian protagonist for a change. We need to see a lot more diversity in middle grade and young adult literature and I was hoping this book would be a good addition. However, the writing style is boring. There's too much on-the-nose writing and distracting stage direction that takes readers away from the story. Plot development is poor. There's much more fluff than meat. If we take out some unnecessary descriptions that don't really add to the story, the book will probably be half its current thickness. It was difficult to turn pages because there's not much tension to keep you reading. Also, considering this is for a middle grade audience, I didn't like that the author was talking about making out/ kissing and that she used the word "stupid" one too many times. Yes, she may be projecting realism, but as a teacher, I wouldn't use this as recommended reading for young kids. It may not be the kind of book that some parents will approve of. The book had some setups that could have been explored further but fell flat. There wasn't much digging into the main character's Filipino culture besides the brief mention of pancit, kumusta ka, and atchara (an appetizer made of pickled papaya) which the author mistakenly referred to as a Filipino curse word. She could have added a bit more backstory to Apple Yengko that could have made her a unique protagonist readers can sympathize with. The novel just didn't shine for me, which is so sad as I really wanted to like this book. For those of you who are interested in middle grade books that explore themes of diversity, you're better off with Thanhha Lai's "Inside Out and Back Again" or Reyna Grande's "The Distance Between Us."
There were parts of Blackbird Fly that stood out and other that felt a bit leaden. I loved the uncompromising and frequently unintentionally cruel mother. Some loving mothers are like this--unaware of how cruel their words can be. I could envision this in an immigrant mother who wants what is best for her child, but might not understand the social dynamics of a new culture. I thought that was really well done. And I loved reading about Philippine food. I also liked the main character's interest in music. It felt pretty authentic. I liked elements of the girl who had previously been a friend--girl friendships at that age shift so much that this read as authentic.
What I didn't like were the supporting characters who, like Apple (the main character), are bullied at school. Or I liked them individually, but didn't buy into their grouping. Apple teams up with an unconventional boy and an obese girl--both of whom are targets for the bullies. Together they create their own little circle. It read like a cynical marketing grab aimed at Generation Z school diversity programs. I wish it didn't, but that was my take. It was too easy to group them together and none of them have anything quirks that make the friendships difficult. I also had a hard time believing that Apple would be called the various racist phrases given the current anti-bullying culture at school. It's certainly possible and I'm sure some readers can vouch for that, but kids who do this are usually ostracized pretty quickly, at least in my neck of the woods.
Blackbird Fly is an amazing book I have a history with it though. The first time I read this book was in third grade. I didn't understand that while at first because I was super young and it didn't really interest me, but read that again in fourth grade and I started to understand it. So now but I was a little older and I understand the problems of Apple it made more sense. so I'm going to tell you what I liked and disliked about this book if you want to read it. So what did I like about this book well firstly I loved that Apple loved the Beatlesbecause I like the Beatles I mean I've only listen to one of their songs but they sounded really good so another thing that I liked was like Apple told it in a great perspective. another thing was I felt really really like I was in the book and actually at one part,spoiler alert, but I during part whenever Alyssa had found Apple in mr.z swing choir auditions room when Mr.Z and the rest of the swing choir walked in and Alyssa accused Apple of stealing again I actually thought I was asking for a second if we awkward it was super weird but I was Apple and it was weird. So basically I think I was in the room with the listener cuz I was reading it when I'm reading I get really into my book and I'm just like wow I can't believe I'm in the book. And when she said Kelpto and Thief I got mad and it was an amazing experience. So overall I loved it.
I loved that the protagonist, Apple Yenko is Filipino and at the same time so very American. She doesn't know it and feels different from her classmates in Lousiana. She is in fact, ashamed of her mother and the food she cooks. She finds her salvation in her music. Along her musical journey, she meets some really cool friends who appreciate herself. I enjoyed the book and recommend it to young adult readers.
Blackbird Fly is one of the best books I've read in a long time. Erin Entrada Kelly did an amazing job capturing the cruelty youngsters inflict on each other, and showing the vulnerability of those who are "different." I highly recommend this book for your young readers--especially those who are struggling with self-esteem issues, are victims of cruel pranks, or just need encouragement. I wasn't ready to let go of these wonderful characters--especially Apple and Evan. Long live the Apples and Evans of this world! Lots of life lessons here. Fantastic positive read for youth and adults.
I'm not going to summarize the story like many reviewers do. You can read the blurb above if you want to know what the book's about. Personally, I thought the book was okay, but it wasn't great. Yes, the main character feels different because her family (mother) isn't the same as all of the other kids' parents (single mother, not white, eats ethnic foods that white kids don't understand) and she's going through a lot of the same issues that many teens go through (being white doesn't mean you don't go through the same "not fitting in" feelings as everyone around you--just look at what her two best friends go through). Being a teen is all about going through changes and having times when you don't fit in and you lose (or make) friends. I wanted to read this book because I wanted to know how a non-caucasian teen sees and deals with growing up in a predominately white area. And I really did sympathize with her situation. Being a teen is difficult no matter what, and it was doubly so for her. However, the ending was what, for me, was a let-down. You don't just stand up and face your fears (and you certainly don't get others to do so) on the turn of a dime. She was working her way to the ending and would have eventually gotten there, but it's as if the author decided that she had gone on long enough and decided it was time to wrap things up. And that is a real shame, because this book had more to give and could have been better if she had just let the ending play out naturally.
I have so many students that are Filipino Am so it's great to finally start seeing YA novels that reflect their culture. I love how Kelly shows Apple maturing as she struggles with harassment and school and disagreements with her mom at school.