Blackbird by N. D. Gomes
Publisher: HQ Teen
Publication date: 16 November 2017
Pages: 287 pages
Format: physical proof
Rating: 3.75 out of 5 blackbirds
I received a proof copy of this book at YALC. This does not influence my opinion. This review is spoiler-free.
Blackbird is a proof I picked up at YALC this year. I didn’t know anything about it, but I loved the cover and was intrigued by the back copy. This book was an unexpected departure from the things I’ve been reading lately.
My name is Alex. I am fifteen years old, and I don’t know where my sister is. Or if she will ever come back.
On New Year’s Eve 5,000 blackbirds dropped dead. The same day Olivia McCarthy went missing from a small coastal village in Orkney.
Now her younger sister Alex is on a mission to find out just what happened to Olivia. But does she really want to know all the answers?
First things first, if you’re expecting a supernatural link between the blackbirds falling from the sky and the missing Olivia, forget about it now. Nothing in this book is supernatural, nothing in this book is fantasy. I find it weird that it seems to be marketed that way because I think people will be disappointed when they are drawn in by that aspect of the plot and find out that it doesn’t really exist. The story is compelling enough without the 5,000 blackbirds included in the copy or the story at all! I would have made the choice to completely remove it, to be honest.
Now that the negative stuff is out of the way, I really enjoyed this book. The story is told from the perspective of Alex, Olivia’s younger sister. We learn what happens to Olivia through Alex’s eyes, feeling her conflicting, wide-ranging emotions all the way through. Alex worships her sister, despite the fact that they’re two very different people. Alex is content with her life in Orkney, a remote set of islands off the coast of northernmost Scotland. Olivia, on the other hand, is finishing up her time on the island and ready to move to London in a few months. Alex isn’t just dealing with her sister’s mysterious disappearance – she’s struggling with the fact that Olivia will probably never visit Orkney again.
I really liked Alex as a character, as frustrating as she could be. But you know what, she’s a teenage girl dealing with one of the worst possible situations a person can find themselves in. her emotions are raw and real, her grief is striking. Her relationship with Detective Birkin, who is assigned to Oliva’s case, is unusual and believable. As Alex’s family struggles to stay together, she finds other ways to project her feelings. We get two or three chapters from Olivia’s perspective that keep the story interesting –it’s like we get a peak behind the curtains to see what’s really going on.
This is not a thriller, it’s not really a mystery. It is a study of grief and how tragic events can push us apart or bring us together. I really enjoyed this book, although it was a little slow in parts. I enjoyed the fact that the emphasis was not on the investigation surrounding Olivia’s disappearance but on how it affected Olivia’s loved ones. Alex is a reliable, but difficult narrator who is so believably human.
Did you get a proof of Blackbird at YALC? Have you read it yet? Is it something you think you might get? Let me know!
You can pre-order Blackbird here: