Published by Atom Books in March. This book was gifted to me in exchange for an honest review.
Favourite quote from the book.
"You can't enjoy happiness if you live in ceaseless fear it will be snatched away."
Book Summary from Goodreads
15-year-old Owen Marlow is experiencing a great, disorienting loss after his father suddenly passed away and his mother moved them to a new town. None of his old friends knew how to confront his grief, so he's given up on trying to make new ones. There is one guy at school who might prove to be different if he gives him a chance but lately, Owen has been overwhelmed by his sadness. He's started to have strange, powerful hallucinations of skeletal birds circling above him. Owen tells himself that these visions are just his brain's way of trying to cope - until one night, the birds descend and take him to an otherworldly forest. There, he is asked to go on a dangerous journey that promises to bring him the understanding he so desperately seeks - if he can survive it.
This book gives an honest and realistic view of the dynamics of teenage male friendships. I found it fascinating how each boy viewed themselves differently within the group as well as how some grew up quicker than others.
I loved the budding friendship between Duncan and Owen which is told through a dual narrative. These each have their own troubles to deal with, but they learn to lean on each other.
I have to be honest and admit that I struggled with the fantasy element within the story. This was told in third person and followed Owen's journey through the afterlife. I thought these chapters were cleverly written and I enjoyed the author's depiction, but I always found myself eager to get back to Duncan and Owen.
I thought Duncan's sister Emily was brilliantly portrayed. She may be in a wheelchair, but she never lets her disability stop her from being a strong person, who will try her hand at everything.
This book has some strong themes running through it including mental health and coming of age, which blend perfectly with the overall theme of bereavement. The author shows that there isn't any right way to deal with the death of a family member. Not everyone will cry, everyone grieves differently and no one has the right to tell them when to stop.
On the whole I really enjoyed this book and I thought it was an excellent portrayal of grief. It would make an excellent addition to any secondary school library and an ideal book to give to a student struggling with how to deal with bereavement.
A strong contemporary with a strand of magical realism. If you enjoyed Swan Boy by Nikki Sheehan, you will love this one too.