This morning, I am going to meet up with J. Marshall Martin, of BoysRead.org, at a coffee shop in my little town. He has been a total bro, helping me hustle Chess Rumble, pointing me to school visit contacts in Seattle, St. Luis, and elsewhere. His reviews of Chess Rumble were very cool and he gave us links on his website.
Well, he sent me a copy of his latest book, The Bird, a while ago. I hesitantly admit that I am a slow reader (I used to be the fastest reader in the west as a kid, but have slowed down as an old dude for some reason), but my delay in reading this book was due to the fact that my wife and then my 17 yr old son were first in line (both because they are faster readers than I but also because they are fierce, serious readers who devour books like food). So, once they finished it, I was finally able to enjoy it myself.
My thoughts on The Bird:
Big heart, conveyed through a surprisingly innocent story. It centers around a teenage boy yet the book lacks violence, graphic sex, drugs, all the stuff that pop culture focuses on. Which suits it just fine. Often, especially in movies, we see Formula heavy handedly molest decent story lines. Throw in a sex scene that does not forward the plot in any way, but is required to guarantee sales. Demographics and focus groups and blah, blah, blah. So annoying. Young people like what all people like, a good story told in the best way possible. That's why sincere artists and writers will still attract young readers and viewers to their work, regardless of how well their work fits into the formulas of old, rich suits who will never be on any leading edge but can only ever chase trends. We like sincerity and The Bird has got it.
I also quite appreciate the blending of reality and symbolic, dreamlike elements. The owl gave me goosebumps, even before I found out its importance later in the book. The tempo of the book was like that of a road trip, cruising comfortably along, not disrupted by the memories and flashbacks.
The sadness of the main character feels very real. It doesn't feel like a foreign sorrow that the writer conveys. It makes me wonder how much of the story is drawn from the author's life.
One last thing, I really love how at the end of the story, we find that Angie, the girl along for the ride, may actually be someone else entirely. That kind of ambiguity is so cool to me. Trusting your readers to draw their own conclusions and not needing to spell it all out for them.
So, big props to J. Marshall Martin on his second novel. I enjoyed this book deeply.
Good work, bro.