This week, I’m so happy I read Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos. I’d heard a lot of buzz about this book online—several people I follow on Twitter have reviewed it and/or interviewed Roskos about it—and so I picked it up on my last trip to Barnes & Noble. This debut YA novel is unique, heartfelt, heartrending, and honest. It has a teen boy voice I haven’t read before and a bittersweet ending that left me both wanting more and completely satisfied with how everything did (or didn’t) resolve. I highly recommend this one!
So what’s it about?
Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets is about a boy, James Whitman, who loves Walt Whitman. A boy who sings his very own barbaric Yawp! each morning. A boy who hugs trees and writes poetry. A boy who struggles with depression and anxiety. A boy who has imagined a pigeon therapist named Dr. Bird—and has talked to her for months. When the story starts, James is reeling from recent family drama that resulted in his sister, Jorie, being kicked out of the house by his abusive parents. He’s trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to put his broken family back together. To hold his fracturing self together. In short, James is having a rough time. But with help from his best friend, Derek, a new friend/crush, Beth, an actual, real-live therapist, and even Dr. Bird, James might be able to find the strength he needs to keep going.
There were many things I loved about this book. James is a fascinating character. He jumps from narrating his life like your average teenage boy (if there is such a thing) to speaking/thinking in Walt Whitman-esque odes—to himself, to the people in his life, to the natural world. He literally does wake up in the morning with a loud Yawp! (Partly to get himself amped up for the day, and partly because he knows it irritates his father…) He is thoughtful and kind and sad and hopeful and angry and funny, all at the same time. It was a pleasure to spend time with him, even as my heart twisted and hurt for what he was going through. I wanted James to succeed, even as I was pretty sure he wasn’t heading in the right direction and that he wouldn’t get the answers and the absolution he craved.
A lot of the joy of this book is in seeing it unfold, so I don’t want to say much more about the plot. But I will say this: an imaginary pigeon therapist named Dr. Bird! Who coos and cocks her head and gets her feathers ruffled and uses her beak to groom herself, all while dispensing sage advice! Genius.
Definitely check this one out!