FICTION

Blackbird Fly

304p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062238610.
COPY ISBN
RedReviewStarGr 5–8—Eighth grader Apple and her mother moved from the Philippines to Louisiana several years ago after the death of her father. All Apple has left of her dad is a Beatles cassette with his name written on it. At school, her two best friends are trying to become part of the in-group and have become very critical of her, especially after it's discovered that she is on the unwritten Dog-Log and considered one of the ugliest girls in school. Apple is embarrassed by her mother, who doesn't speak English well. The protagonist is desperate to get a guitar so she can learn to play the Beatles songs that her dad loved, but her mother is adamant that she not waste her time on music. Soon, Apple makes friends with a new boy, Evan, who's not impressed with her former friends or their boyfriends. When the music teacher loans her a guitar, she discovers that she is something of a prodigy. The story will resonate with any student in middle school who has felt different and ostracized. The author has skillfully captured the various characters that populate Apple's middle school. Only Apple's mother remains two-dimensional until almost the end. The story is rather predictable until it ends with a twist. Apple mentions her favorite song "Blackbird" many times; readers unfamiliar with the song would benefit from listening to a recording or finding a YouTube clip.—Nancy P. Reeder, Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, Columbia, SC
Louisianan Analyn "Apple" Yengko is tired of being different; she's ashamed of her mother and her Filipina American heritage. Things get worse when she's put on the "Dog Log," a list of the middle school's ten ugliest girls. Thankfully, Apple's passion for music allows her to transform herself and take flight. Kelly sensitively explores issues of bullying and friendship in her solid debut.

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