Book Review: Birdy (Jess Vallance)

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Pages: 272

Release Date: July 2nd 2015

Summary (from Goodreads):

Frances Bird has been a loner for so long that she’s given up on ever finding real friendship. But then she’s asked to show a new girl around school, and she begins to think her luck could finally be changing.

Eccentric, talkative and just a little bit posh, Alberta is not at all how Frances imagined a best friend could be. But the two girls click immediately, and it’s not long before they are inseparable. Frances could not be happier.

As the weeks go on, Frances finds out more about her new best friend – her past, her secrets, her plans for the future – and she starts to examine their friendship more closely.

Is it, perhaps, just too good to be true?

Review:

Big thanks to author Jess Valance,  who sent me a copy of this book when I had packed all mine away while moving house (this doesn’t affect my review in any way).

First off, I have to say that is one gorgeous cover! It draws you in immediately and really sums up the book for me: dark and intriguing.

The book starts great as well: it’s France recording ‘her version of events’ which sounds foreboding and makes you want to speed through quickly to find out what happened.

Frances is a really sympathetic character: a classic loner who, while not outrageously odd, just doesn’t fit in with any of your usual groups at school. So when Bert comes along and actually seems to want to be friends with her, you can’t help but feel happy for her.

While I sympathised with Frances at school, it was her home life that really made me feel for her. With no mother or father, she lives with her strict Grandmother and her Grandfather who suffers from dementia. The descriptions just left me feeling hollow inside: the idea of dreading evenings with the same rotation of meals, the long weekends with nothing to do, and the even longer holiday weeks that stretch out endlessly. Having recently lived with my Grandmother, who has dementia, I found some of the interactions with the Grandfather difficult to read as it touched really close to home.

As the friendship between Frances and Bert grows, there’s something uneasy about it. It reminded me of another book but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Perhaps Vicky Angel by Jacqueline Wilson, where the friendship is so all consuming it feels almost dangerous. I felt quite tense reading it, just waiting for it all to blow up.

It did blow up of course, but not in the way I expected, which I loved. It all felt very clever: Vallance sets you up with certain expectations at the beginning of the book – at first I felt a little disappointed that the book foreshadowed what was about to happen, but that was my fault for assuming I knew what was going on! I won’t say too much as I don’t want to spoil it, but the ending really sucked me in and took me by surprise and I couldn’t quite believe what was happening.

This was such a great read, I can’t recommend it enough. If you’re looking for a dark and twisted tale of friendship and betrayal then this is definitely for you!

4

If you enjoyed this, you might like Seed by Lisa Heathfield