Very rarely do I pick up a book to read and ignore the synopsis, the genre, the publisher, the title, and all other details about the book save the author’s name. But Jess Flower is one such author for me. So it didn’t matter to me that RedBird was a wholly different type of story than his first novel, Daisy Hill, nor did it matter that I’m not a big fan of fantasy-adventure type stories: I knew that any book of his would be worth reading.
Jordy Nichols is eleven years old, about to turn twelve, when his world is turned upside-down by a message that arrives via strange circumstances and is ostensibly from his birth parents. Though he has grown up wanting for nothing—including love, which is provided in spades by his uncle—everyone wants to know where they came from. Following the letter’s instructions, he and his Uncle Carver cancel their Christmas plans to take a trip to Prague. But that’s where things get otherworldly, and it turns out this adventure is going to be far more than a plane trip.
My summary might be awkwardly worded in places, but that’s only because I was so surprised by the big twist of this book that I dare not spoil it for any potential readers. What’s more, if I had seen a flatly worded summary myself, I probably would’ve dismissed this as an overdone cliché of a story, instead of the enjoyable adventure it turned out to be. That’s not to say that it’s an absolute masterpiece; there are definitely some pacing issues, and although the main characters are beautifully developed, there’s an influx of characters near the end so rapidly that it’s hard to care much for them. Where Jess Flower really shines, however, is in taking the tropes that are common to stories like this and turning them on their heads. Repeatedly the story seems to be heading in a predictable direction, and then it delights you by doing something you weren’t expecting.
It takes awhile to get into the story, and it occasionally gets a bit flowery (no pun intended) with the descriptive language, but I’ll forgive that for the fact that it’s the first in a trilogy, so some plot setup is needed, and it takes place against beautiful landscapes and backdrops, so some description is needed as well. It’s also refreshing to read a young adult novel that genuinely feels safe for young adults of any age to read! The story is self-contained with no arbitrary cliffhanger to disappoint the reader, though he manages to throw a twist in at the end that encourages you to read on. When WhiteSnow comes out, I’m definitely planning to pick it up.
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