Bird by Crystal Chan

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Bird by Crystal Chan
Text Publishing 2014. ISBN 9781922147707.
(Ages: 11+) The narrator is 12 year-old Jewel who lives with her parents and grandfather in a small town in Iowa, USA. Her older brother, who she never knew, jumped off a cliff at the age of five, thinking he could fly. This tragedy haunts the family, leading them to pursue an unhealthy belief in the power of magic, curses and spirits, which is further explained by the Jamaican/Mexican family background and the rather isolated community in which they live.
I enjoyed the young girl's narrative voice and was convinced of her heart-felt loss of a brother, along with her frustration at how her parents cannot give her the affection and reassurances she needs. When she meets Eugene, who initially betrays her friendship, but wins her over as a kindred spirit and as someone who she can share her secrets with, the opposition from her family is overbearing and drives her to the edge.
This is Chan's first book and is full of interesting ideas about families, friendships, small towns and the safety of secret places. The nature and power of magic, which surrounds the lives of this family, is rather unsettling and, at times, Jewel's language is oversentimental, but Bird is thought provoking and a worthwhile read.
Julie Wells