The Meaning of Birds
The Meaning of Birds
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Annotation: During her sophomore year, Jessica develops a relationship with Vivi that helps her deal with the anger she has felt since her father's death--only to be overwhelmed again when Vivi dies during their senior year.
Genre: Love stories
Catalog Number: #173333
Format: Publisher's Hardcover
No other formats available
Special Formats: Hot Title Hot Title
Publisher: HarperCollins
Copyright Date: 2019
Edition Date: 2019
Pages: 354 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: 0-06-282444-9
ISBN 13: 978-0-06-282444-8
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2018954199
Dimensions: 22 cm.
Language: English
Publishers Weekly
Jess is a talented artist who has long used creating to cope with anger, but nothing has seemed worth doing since her girlfriend Vivi-s sudden death. Jess-s father died in Afghanistan when she was young, and the loss of Vivi brings back familiar waves of anger and helplessness, which she deals with by fighting, especially with jerks at her suburban North Carolina school who harass her about being gay. It lands her in an alternative school whose work experience component includes blacksmithing, and Jess, it turns out, is a natural. Hammering hot metal helps get the anger out, reawakens her artistic impulses, and gives her the impetus to apply to college. Jess-s close-knit friend group and delightful, bird-loving Vivi are affectionately rendered. Brown (Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit) depicts Jess with raw realism, making the early sections hard going: she seems hell-bent on alienating everyone but her patient family to ensure that if Vivi doesn-t have a future, she won-t, either. At the same time, the anger-soaked beginning enriches the payoff, when a grief group and blacksmithing start to help Jess find her way, not out of grief, but back into life. Ages 14-up. (Apr.)

School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up When her girlfriend Vivi dies unexpectedly from flu complications, Jess's life divides into a stark before and after. Before, Jess had love, art, and plans for her future. After, only grief and anger. When Jess is sent to an alternative school because of fights provoked by her classmates' homophobic comments, a vocational blacksmithing program offers her a chance to forge a new path during the last months of her senior year. But no choice is simple when healing and moving on feel like betraying the past. Brown's exploration of loss is raw and devastating, placing readers directly into Jess's turbulent experience through evocative present tense narration interspersed with vivid flashback chapters. The supporting characters are also complex and distinct, from Deuces, a friendly parolee at the alternative school, who openly dates a trans woman in his tough neighborhood, to Cheyanne, Jess's best friend, who struggles to navigate her aromantic identity while supporting her volatile friend. Brown captures the ambivalence of grief in this searing and ultimately hopeful novel. VERDICT Recommended for high school and public library collections, and for fans of Jandy Nelson, Adam Silvera, and Nicola Yoon. Molly Saunders, Homewood Public Library, AL
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
A teen tries to pick up the pieces after devastating loss.Jess Perez burns hot. Having the courage at a young age to come out to herself and others as "queer, overly sensitive, overly prone to fists," Jess anticipates the start of her sophomore year with some trepidation, having to negotiate what she perceives as a threatening environment without the aid of the therapist who'd been helping her process her military father's death in Afghanistan three years before. But the horizon suddenly brightens when Jess meets Vivi Bouchard—smart, curvy, confident, and gay; the two are instantly attracted and soon become girlfriends. Vivi encourages Jess to develop her copious talents as a visual artist and helps her manage her, at times, uncontrollable anger, seeing Jess how she wishes to be seen: "Interesting. Artistic. Something more than a middle-class, if that, suburban girl"—and they plan for their future at college together. Jess' world is rocked when Vivi unexpectedly dies, sending her spiraling into grief and rage as she rails against her new persona as "the queer girl with the dead girlfriend." Told in alternating "then" and "now" chapters, the moving narrative captures well the nonlinear progression of Jess' grief and emotional growth. The book follows a white default although there is diversity across several dimensions in secondary characters; Jess' father was half Mexican and (presumably) half white.Frank and accessible, this gritty drama realizes with great compassion and empathy the ways reckoning with loss can manifest. (Fiction. 14-18)
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Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
Publishers Weekly
School Library Journal (4/1/19)
Reading Level: 7.0
Interest Level: 9-12

Not to be missed by fans of Nina LaCour and Becky Albertalli, this powerful novel—from the acclaimed author of Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit—paints a poignant portrait of love in the past, grief in the now, and the healing power of art.

Before: Jess has always struggled with the fire inside her. But when she meets Vivi, everything changes. As they fall for each other, Vivi helps Jess deal with her anger and pain and encourages her to embrace her artistic talent. And suddenly Jess’s future is a blank canvas, filled with possibilities.

After: When Vivi unexpectedly dies, Jess’s perfect world is erased. As she spirals out of control, Jess pushes away everyone around her and throws out her plans for art school. Because art is Vivi and Vivi is gone forever. Right when Jess feels at her lowest, she makes a surprising friend who just might be able to show her a new way to channel her rage, passion, and creativity. But will Jess ever be able to forge a new path for herself without Vivi?

A beautiful exploration of first love and first loss, this novel effortlessly weaves together past and present to tell a profound story about how you can become whole again when it seems like you’ve lost the most important part of yourself.

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