Release Date: October 2nd, 2012
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Source: I received a paper arc from the publisher.
Blurb (from Goodreads):
An enchanting—and twisted—tale of two sisters’ quest to find their parents.
When their parents disappear in the middle of the night, young sisters Summer and Bird set off on a quest to find them. A cryptic picture message from their mother leads them to a familiar gate in the woods, but comfortable sights quickly give way to a new world entirely—Down—one inhabited by talking birds and the evil Puppeteer queen. Summer and Bird are quickly separated, and their divided hearts lead them each in a very different direction in the quest to find their parents, vanquish the Puppeteer, lead the birds back to their Green Home, and discover the identity of the true bird queen.
With breathtaking language and deliciously inventive details, Katherine Catmull has created a world unlike any other, skillfully blurring the lines between magic and reality and bringing to life a completely authentic cast of characters and creatures.
Summer and Bird was something. I loved it and hated it at the same time. That’s right. It was one of THOSE books. There was an equal amount of like and dislike, and I guess I should start with the positive qualities first.
I really liked the writing style. For a first book, you would never be able to tell. I am usually a fan of books where the writing has a dreamy/whimsical style. This book had that and I really enjoyed the way the narrator told the story. Yes, Summer and Bird is written in third person omniscient point of view. And I LIKED it. I don’t read a lot of books with this POV–it’s not that common anyway–but the ones I have read I felt were executed well. This one is no different. The only thing I wish is that we found out some information about the narrator. Had no idea who it was.
But make no mistake. This is a very serious book that has a lot to say, and it includes some mature themes about family, divorce, being estranged and other things like it. It’s not really a happy book at all despite its writing style. The tone is a bit heavy and depressing which I have no problem with at all, I just want you to be prepared if you decide to read it. If you are looking for fun and mindless, you will not find it here. None of the material is inappropriate though, it’s just a much more serious book than I expected it to be.
So there is this Bird Queen. And the other birds call her the puppeteer because she makes paper birds out of many different colors and controls them with magic, dance, and strings. She’s actually an extremely talented woman, but she has wanted to be a bird and fly for so long that her heart has become corrupted. And the thing is she’s not actually the Bird Queen, she just took over the position when the real queen disappeared. And now she is the dictator of birdland and all the other birds are afraid of her. She eats them so they fly inside her body and give her bird-strength until they die. This can be a very morbid book at times.
You’ll also travel along with Summer and Bird–sisters–as they try to find their parents in birdland which in the book is called “Down.” You see Summer and Bird’s parents disappear one night and the girls receive a picture message from their mother which they solve and somehow end up in “Down.” They meet some special characters and some pretty terrifying ones, but most of all, this is about a journey of the heart and a coming of age story for both girls.
So what didn’t I like about the book? Well, there were times when it was pretty damn boring. There, I said it. I put it down enough times to the point where I realized the book was not holding my attention as it should have been. It just took so long to get from one plot point to the next. I felt like taking naps in between. I may have actually done that. I nap a lot. It just wasn’t an exciting book. The setting was kind of boring as well. It was this barren, snow-covered landscape and the only thing interesting in “Down” was a giant tree and the birds themselves (and there aren’t that many of them that play a pivotal role). The rest of the time the characters were trudging through a field or a forest. It was just all very blah.
Lastly, I was unsatisfied with the ending AND the character development. I just didn’t care about these characters as much as I should have. When they talked they all sounded the same. The only thing differentiating Summer from her sister was their physical description. Otherwise you would never know. Every character had a similar voice. They didn’t get much of a backstory either. And anyone who is any kind of writer knows that characters need a backstory, flaws, and a personality to make the reader care. And in my opinion, most of that was absent. The ending was completely bittersweet and I guess it sort of had to end that way, but I still found it very frustrating and unsatisfying. I can say it does teach some useful lessons about different family dynamics though.
Still, if you are looking for a book that is beautifully written and are wanting to be presented with some fairly original and unique ideas, I think you might enjoy this one. As long as you go in expecting it not to be perfect or expecting to finish it in one sitting, you should be good. I will leave you with my favorite quote from the book.
“Winter never altogether vanishes, even in the warmest summer. You can always find it lingering, if you look.” ~Quote taken from ARC copy and may have been changed.