{ARC} Book Review: Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly

January 14, 2014 Review 0 ★★★★

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

{ARC} Book Review: Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada KellyBlackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly
Series: Standalone
Published by Greenwillow Books on 2015 March 24
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 304
Format: E-book {ARC}
Source: Edelweiss
Buy on Amazon
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four-stars

Future rock star, or friendless misfit? That’s no choice at all. In this debut tween novel, twelve-year-old Apple grapples with being different; with friends and backstabbers and following her dreams.

Apple has always felt a little different from her classmates. She and her mother moved to Louisiana from the Philippines when she was little, and her mother still cooks Filipino foods, makes mistakes with her English, and chastises Apple for becoming “too American.” It becomes unbearable in middle school, when the boys—the stupid, stupid boys—in Apple’s class put her name on the Dog Log, the list of the most unpopular girls in school. When Apple’s friends turn on her and everything about her life starts to seem weird and embarrassing, Apple turns to music. If she can just save enough to buy a guitar and learn to play, maybe she can change herself. It might be the music that saves her . . . or it might be her two new friends, who show how special she really is.

After a lot of disappointing reads, Blackbird Fly was a breath of fresh air. It managed to deliver what it meant to deliver.  It was fast-paced, straightforward, a little bit angsty, awkward in the most positive way, heartwarming and relatable.

Apple Yengko, our protagonist, is a Filipina who migrated to the U.S.A with her mother after her father’s death.  Even though she has spent most of her life living in the US, Apple still finds herself some sort of an outsider among her American friends and acquaintances. Throw in her mother who has piously followed the Filipino practices despite the geography, Apple felt more and more and awkward with herself.  Desperate to fit in, Apple cannot help but feel embarrassed every time she witnesses her mother does or says stuff that does not fall into the category of being an American. Apple is also superficial having been influenced by her superficial friends.

So alright, do I hate Apple? Yes, I hated her at one time but then, as I tried imagining my younger self in her shoes,  I think that I would do the same.  I haven’t been to the US nor have been an immigrant to any other country but I have experienced and witnessed some of Apple and her mother’s experiences when it comes to dealing with people whose language and culture are different.  Blackbird Fly’s portrayal of Apple and her mother’s struggle to survive in a foreign country particularly Apple’s journey to find her place in her school was stark and realistic. There’s the dog-eater thing, the accent (many Filipinos are really crazy polishing their accent to achieve that perfect American twang), the Filipino way of cooking fish, etc.

Thankfully, Apple was able to see the path towards redemption with the support of her new friend, the nerdy Evan Temple.  I liked that Apple’s change towards self-acceptance and being proud for what she is and what she can do happened gradually.  And the fact that it wasn’t prompted by some crazed puppy-love shit made me do a happy dance.

I wouldn’t have hesitated giving Blackbird Fly a 5-star rating but then, there are some things that didn’t sit right with me. For one, there’s a word translation from Tagalog to English in the story that was incorrect.  Two, the male protagonist used the word “Atsara” as some form of a Filipino curse word. Believe me, I’ve lived in the Philippines my whole life and I can understand 5 dialects and speak three, interacted with people from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, and I have never encountered a single person using it as a curse word.  By the way, Atsara is a pickled young papaya soaked in vinegar and mainly used as an appetizer.

Overall, Blackbird Fly was one of the best coming-of-age YA contemporary I’ve read in 2015.  I’m glad that I took the journey with Apple and her mother.

PS. Eleanor Rigby and Yellow Submarine are my favorite Beatles’ songs.

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