One of my favourite things about reading fiction is the process of being placed in someone else’s shoes, being put in unfamiliar situations, making you feel things that you haven’t felt before or even making you think just that little bit differently. A good book will fully immerse you giving you one hell of a reading experience and that is exactly what happened with If Birds Fly Back. I was bombarded with so many different feelings in the last 100 pages that I had to have a break to pull myself together. Maybe I’m just real sensitive this week but I think it has a lot more to do with the exceptional story telling, the depth of the characters and the combination of funny, tender and raw moments.
I’m not going to do a plot overview or anything – you can get that from Amazon or Goodreads. I just want to highlight a few things that I felt really stood out about this book.
The characters were diverse and had vibrant personalities that differ from the usual YA! No boring characters whatsoever here. Linny is mixed race, has a gay best friend and is, to put it simply, a total legend. Sebastian is into astrophysics and after my own heart wearing tees with slogans like ‘I edit Wikipedia’ (you know how I geek out over t-shirt slogans, especially any related to science!). I even googled A Brief Compendium of Astrophysical Curiosities, the book that was referenced at the start of every chapter, to see if it was a real book I could get my hands on. Astrophysics fascinates me, hence why I seriously, seriously swooned after Sebastien.
Many chapters are set inside an old people’s home where Linny and Seb obsess over Alvaro, who is one hell of a mystery for the reader to try and unravel. We encounter mental health issues typically associated with older generations, such as dementia, and it was great to see this included since it effects such a number of us but we rarely read about it. These scenes really opened my eyes and it has encouraged me to volunteer at a local home where I can give a little back!
I learnt some unique and quirky facts. I strongly believe books make you smarter in a general all round sense but I especially relish those that have quirky facts (extra-especially anything STEM). I had a ‘fact of the day’simply so I could keep telling everyone about Hairy Ball Theorem. Yes, it is genuinely a thing! Mind = Blown.
The relationships… Oh my gosh, there are soooo many intense and beautiful relationships; an awkward falling in first-time love, loving best friends to hating best friends to loving them again, a strong parental love that feels more like a burden, the joy of discovering a parent along with the animosity towards them for leaving in the first place, devotion towards an absentee sister but loathing her for abandoning you. Love comes in all shapes and sizes in If Birds Fly Back, including the love we have for ourselves.
There is just something super special about this book. I’m not normally one for romance but this one had me so hooked with its original and unforgettable scenes that I read it in the space of two days. I will be reading everything that Carlie writes going forward as this is a dazzling debut. Go have a read and see what I mean. Let me know what you think!