Thursday, 5 February 2015

Book Review: Nightbird

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman

4 Stars

Recommend: Middle grade, or for a smooth Sunday afternoon.

Twig lives in a remote area of town with her mysterious brother and her mother, baker of irresistible apple pies. A new girl in town might just be Twig's first true friend, and ally in vanquishing an ancient family curse. A spellbinding tale of modern folklore set in the Berkshires, where rumours of a winged beast draw in as much tourism as the town's famed apple orchards.

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The reason why I thought Sunday afternoon is because it’s a light and nice way to end your week before Monday comes and drags you from your bed. It’s a book that made me feel happy, and that’s not what I’m  usually drawn to in a novel...

And isn’t it refreshing to read a story mainly about friendship and sibling love, rather than romance?

While it’s middle grade, I found it akin to Peace and Conflict by Irene Sabatini – a book anyone could enjoy. A child narrator doesn’t necessarily limit the novel to a child audience, and this didn’t strike me as a young person’s book. It has a young voice and a nice lack of swearing and adult behaviour, but it’s certainly not a simple or dull or immature story. Its family fun rather than a kid’s novel.

In fact, it’s imaginative and charming. I noticed it was described as modern folklore which I didn’t realise was a thing. But now they mention it, yes. That’s the perfect way to describe it.

I do have a minor quibble. I wanted to connect more with James and Agate, who were the older siblings of our main character and her new best friend. The couple are a big part of the story, but not the narrative, if that makes sense. We hear a lot about them, yet we spend very little time with them. Maybe the story isn’t about them really, but I know the ending would have been a tear-jerker if I had felt a little more for James. I just didn’t know him well enough.

A few events didn’t happen the way I expected. This was mostly great and kept the story at a brisk pace, but sometimes it felt anticlimactic. When Agate first meets James, we assume she realises something extraordinary, but we don’t see how she deals with it. After that moment, everyone seems okay with such an oddity. Another reveal also took me so off-guard I didn’t know whether it was brilliant or terrible. I still haven’t decided.

In truth, you could probably write a book about what’s not included in this story. And I would read it. I’d love to read James’ point of view of the whole scenario. After all, a book has a limit to what it can include, and this one in particular had a subtle way of building the novel.

But I wasn’t blown away either, which is why my review is rather short. I enjoyed the ride and I felt happier after reading it, but it won’t be going on my favourite novel list and I don’t feel particularly inspired by it either. It’s just quite nice, like a piece of apple pie.