The Meaning of Birds
Before, Jessica has always struggled with anger issues, but come sophomore year that all changes when Vivi crashes into her life. As their relationship blossoms, Vivi not only helps Jess deal with her pain, she also encourages her to embrace her talent as an artist. And for the first time, it feels like the future is filled with possibilities. After In the midst of senior year, Jess’s perfect world is erased when Vivi suddenly passes away. Reeling from the devastating loss, Jess pushes everyone away, and throws out her plans to go to art school. Because art is Vivi and Vivi is gone forever.Desperate for an escape, Jess gets consumed in her work-study program, letting all of her dreams die. Until she makes an unexpected new friend who shows her a new way to channel her anger, passion, and creativity. Although Jess may never draw again, if she can find a way to heal and room in her heart, she just might be able to forge a new path for herself without Vivi.

The Meaning of Birds Details

TitleThe Meaning of Birds
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseApr 16th, 2019
PublisherHarperTeen
ISBN-139780062824448
Rating
GenreLGBT, Young Adult, Contemporary

The Meaning of Birds Review

  • Elise (TheBookishActress)
    January 1, 1970
    this cover is the gayest thing i've ever seen in my life, it even perfectly represents the fashion style of 97% of the sapphics I know Including Myself
  • ellie
    January 1, 1970
    this book is gay culture, and so am i. that’s it. thanks for coming to my ted talk.
  • - ̗̀ jess ̖́-
    January 1, 1970
    This book was so hard to read. Not because it was bad, but because it dealt with grief and the aftermath of loss. Jaye Robin Brown writes a really emotional, moving story about dealing with compounded grief - which is, like, really hard to deal with.I related to Jess so much, honestly; I don't struggle with anger management, and I've never lost a girlfriend or close friend. But I can understand her reactions and lashing out and isolating herself because I've been in such a similar place before.  This book was so hard to read. Not because it was bad, but because it dealt with grief and the aftermath of loss. Jaye Robin Brown writes a really emotional, moving story about dealing with compounded grief - which is, like, really hard to deal with.I related to Jess so much, honestly; I don't struggle with anger management, and I've never lost a girlfriend or close friend. But I can understand her reactions and lashing out and isolating herself because I've been in such a similar place before. The Meaning of Birds doesn't skimp on how Jess struggles with everything after losing Vivi, and I could sympathize entirely with how hard it is to readjust to normal life and how Jess feels like she shouldn't be happy without Vivi. A lot of the side characters frustrated me, though; it felt like they were pressuring Jess to just "move on" from Vivi's death, Levi especially.I really adored Jess and Vivi's relationship, though - they were incredibly cute, and I felt Jess's love for Vivi and how painful it was for her to lose Vivi. Usually I'm not fond of books that constantly go between the past and the present, but I think it worked really well for this book. It showed Jess's life with Vivi and how happy they both were, and contrasted it to after Vivi and Jess learning to find her way without Vivi. Here, I feel like the flashbacks added more of an emotional punch to the book than if it had just been divided into two sections.One thing I liked is that The Meaning of Birds showed compounded grief, which is when a person experiences loss without really recovering from previous loss, and it isn't something that you see in YA too often. Jess's father had passed several years before Vivi, and her feelings about both get tangled up. I definitely think there are teens out there who might find this book helpful in knowing they're not alone. Losing one person can dredge up old feelings, and I don't think that's talked about enough, in YA or anywhere. The book doesn't prescribe some deeper meaning to death. Sometimes people die for no reason at all, seemingly out of the blue, and there's no pretending otherwise in this book.Another part that I felt was really important was how art was talked about as something that was both painful yet a way to cope. Jess is an artist, but after Vivi's death, art is too painful for her to do, so she turns to blacksmithing instead as another art form, which was really neat. I also loved Greer and Eliza; they were probably my favourite side characters. We love adorable supportive lesbians. But Jess's blooming interest in blacksmithing shows that it's possible to find new, healthy things you enjoy after a loss. I really understood Jess's feelings around art after Vivi died, and it was good to see her accept that it's okay to grow and change.There were a few things I felt were a tad questionable that took away from my experience of reading it. A couple off-hand comments about asexuality, bi/pansexuality, and trans women that rubbed me the wrong way, for example. These comments are not directly a/bi/trans-phobic, but it struck me as a bit iffy, especially because some of Jess's views were never really addressed or challenged, and they were casual comments that didn't add much to the story altogether.Yes, this is a tragic book about a young lesbian losing her girlfriend, but it shows her learning to cope with it, even if there's no "getting over" it. I think a lot of teens dealing with loss of all types could use this book. However, anyone who reads this should definitely have some tissues nearby, because--as you'd expect--it is horribly sad.content warnings: death of a parent, death of a loved one, griefThanks to Edelweiss and HarperCollins for sending me this ARC in exchange for an honest review. BLOG | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM
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  • Acqua
    January 1, 1970
    2.5 starsWhat drew me to The Meaning of Birds was its beautiful cover - I have a weakness for illustrated covers, and this one represent the content of the book and Jess and Vivi perfectly. The Meaning of Birds is a story about a young lesbian who lost her girlfriend unexpectedly, who has to cope with that while deciding what to do with her life after the end of senior year.I believe queer women deserve happy stories, but I think sad stories are important too. I understand why this premise could 2.5 starsWhat drew me to The Meaning of Birds was its beautiful cover - I have a weakness for illustrated covers, and this one represent the content of the book and Jess and Vivi perfectly. The Meaning of Birds is a story about a young lesbian who lost her girlfriend unexpectedly, who has to cope with that while deciding what to do with her life after the end of senior year.I believe queer women deserve happy stories, but I think sad stories are important too. I understand why this premise could be off-putting for some, as the "bury your gays" trope is too common in media, but I can say that Vivi's death is not written as an afterthought or a device to make people cry.This did not work for me as much as I had hoped, but for different reasons.The Meaning of Birds is a very messy book. I kind of expect that from books about grief, but this was too much.There's only so much messy stuff you can write in a book without addressing it before it becomes a problem. Unchallenged fat-shaming, arophobic remarks, gold star lesbian jokes, saying that labels are "limiting", saying that a trans girl was born a man - there was a lot of messy stuff the characters said or did, and while I understood that I wasn't supposed to agree with them, I don't think we needed all of this. Why include these things and not deal with any of them?[I have read an advance reader copy, so some of these things may not be in the final copy]Jess was a complex, interesting character, but I can't say the same of the side characters, and the way some of them were written bothered me:🐦 The implied-to-be aromantic side character had little personality apart from not caring about romance. If your aro character needs to state that she doesn't care about dating in almost every scene she's in, she's either a stereotype or the other characters are invalidating her. Here, both things happened.🐦 There is one side/minor character who is a black girl (or, I assumed she was black because we're told she has braids and looks like Zoe Kravitz), and she has no depth or no character traits apart from being pushy, wanting Jess for sex and being weirdly fetishistic about it. Did this book need that scene?Also, did this book need a scene in which the main character tries to turn herself straight because that would somehow mean that she would never cheat on Vivi - because she would only be with boys? (Which: what?) Jess realizes pretty soon that it was a bad idea, but that didn't need to happen at all. We don't see books about straight people grieving in which the main character tries to become gay because they don't want to cheat on their dead partner (...I still don't get this), so why does that need to happen in a book about queer girls?I didn't hate this book - I actually really liked the first 20% and most chapters set before Vivi's death - and I think it has a really important message. I love seeing angry girls in books, and Jess' experiences with art, therapy and how grief made some of her coping mechanisms too painful was really interesting to read. Also, Jess presents as a butch lesbian and she's biracial (latina/white).Jess and Vivi's relationship was really sweet, which made everything even more heartbreaking, and I loved the symbolism tied to art and birds. Some people may think that it is unrealistic for a teenage girl to talk about dark-eyed juncos and turkey buzzards during a conversation with her crush, but I don't agree - I would be that kind of person too - and it made sense here. I found this aspect of the book as lovely as it was sad.I also thought this book portrayed what it means to be a teenager who is uncertain about their future after high school really well, and I loved how Jess learned not to run away from herself.
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  • Malanie
    January 1, 1970
    "This totally cute girl, who'd pulled me, BY THE HAND, to this table and fed me creamy potato goodness, just spoke to me IN French. Hot did not even begin to describe it."Can I just start by saying I ship Vivi and Jess SO HARD. They were ridiculously adorable together???? Jess has anger issues and is always ready to punch someone, but Vivi is this soft, sweet girl with asthma and I JUST MELTED. LIKE CHOCOLATE IN A SMALL MICROWAVE.The book is written in chapters alternating between when Vivi is "This totally cute girl, who'd pulled me, BY THE HAND, to this table and fed me creamy potato goodness, just spoke to me IN French. Hot did not even begin to describe it."Can I just start by saying I ship Vivi and Jess SO HARD. They were ridiculously adorable together???? Jess has anger issues and is always ready to punch someone, but Vivi is this soft, sweet girl with asthma and I JUST MELTED. LIKE CHOCOLATE IN A SMALL MICROWAVE.The book is written in chapters alternating between when Vivi is alive, and when she's dead and Jess is left to grieve. I basically kept my eyes shut the entire time Jess is grieving because NO. MY BEAUTIFUL PURE SHIP!!!!!!I don't handle the "death of my lover" theme well. Or at all. "Uh-uh." I grinned. "I'm going to name her Emma Watson and then she'll be in my bed and when you call and ask me what I did during the night, I can say I spooned Emma Watson, and there's nothing you can do about it."AND THEY HAVE A CAT NAMED EMMA WATSON. Vivi presented her girlfriend with this magical little kitten and???? SO SOFT?????This book is a *completely cruel* mix of fluff and grief. Vivi and Jess are the world's cutest lesbian couple and I just wanted to shelter them and let them live their lives in pastel with their cat, Emma Watson. "Vivi nestled her head into the space between my cheek and shoulder. 'You know, I'm going to marry you one day.' 'Not if I marry you first.' It was our running joke."But then I was full-on tackled by devastation: "My grief is part of me."I guess I just wanted this book to be 1oo% fluffy LBGT and I'm too weak to handle two gorgeous lesbian girls being tragic.*goes back under giant blanket because my nice Sunday is ruined*
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  • Jes Reads
    January 1, 1970
    Short but full review can be found here: https://www.jesreads.com/new-blog/201...
  • - ̗̀ DANY ̖́- (danyreads)
    January 1, 1970
    . : ☾⋆ — 4 ★ READ THIS REVIEW ON MY BLOG!!!https://bit.ly/2UhCFdoARC provided from the publisher via Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review (thank you HarperTeen & HarperCollins!!)here’s the gist of it, guys and gals: The Meaning of Birds is everything History is All You Left Me wanted to be, but better. and also sapphic. I love everything about this book. I love that it’s about a realistic and complex journey through grief, I love the genuine growth we see in Jess from the first chapte . : ☾⋆ — 4 ★ READ THIS REVIEW ON MY BLOG!!!https://bit.ly/2UhCFdoARC provided from the publisher via Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review (thank you HarperTeen & HarperCollins!!)here’s the gist of it, guys and gals: The Meaning of Birds is everything History is All You Left Me wanted to be, but better. and also sapphic. I love everything about this book. I love that it’s about a realistic and complex journey through grief, I love the genuine growth we see in Jess from the first chapter to the last one, I love that we get those alternating chapters where we learn about her’s and Vivi’s story but that the book doesn’t entirely focus on the romance, I love that at one point or another Jess questions her sexuality (because sexuality is a spectrum and life is confusing and surprising sometimes), I love that Jess doesn’t take on her grieving journey alone and that we actually see her engage in activities that will help her come out of her funk alongside characters who are not all teenagers, I love that she finds happiness in unexpected places and unexpected people. I LOVE THAT THIS IS GENUINELY A BOOK ABOUT GRIEF AND GROWTH AND NOT ABOUT ROMANCE. this book is emotional and Jess is messy and flawed but she’s HUMAN and I love that about her. Jaye Robin Brown did an amazing job with The Meaning of Birds. after reading her author’s note and finding out that this book came partly from her personal experience, I can’t help but look at her characters and her writing and admire her all the more for it. in my eyes, everything about The Meaning of Birds book is stunning. thanks again to HarperTeen and HarperCollins for providing a free copy of this book!!
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  • mahana
    January 1, 1970
    full review on my blog ARC kindly provided by Harper Teen in exchange for an honest review.Content warning: homophobia, grief/loss of a loved one, sexual assault, repetitive use of the d slur, transphobiaI was apprehensive about picking this up because the author’s other novel, Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruits, had ableist themes that went ignored by a lot of reviewers. However, I was willing to give Brown another chance since I want to continue supporting sapphic novels (and the stun full review on my blog ARC kindly provided by Harper Teen in exchange for an honest review.Content warning: homophobia, grief/loss of a loved one, sexual assault, repetitive use of the d slur, transphobiaI was apprehensive about picking this up because the author’s other novel, Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruits, had ableist themes that went ignored by a lot of reviewers. However, I was willing to give Brown another chance since I want to continue supporting sapphic novels (and the stunning cover doesn’t hurt either).The Meaning of Birds has alternating chapters: before – when Jess meets and falls for a girl named Vivi – and after – where Jess is drowning in grief after Vivi unexpectedly passes away. This story deals with grief and how certain individuals cope with it after a loved one leaves them.Jess’ story is heightened by her anger issues, where she lashes out and is subsequently unapologetic. After losing Vivi, Jess pushes away her mother, sister, and best friend who are only trying to help her move on from this tragedy.I’d recommend this to fans of John Green since this is essentially a sapphic version of his books. I know this has a deeper meaning to it where people push their loved ones away and lie in bed when they’re dealing with grief, but this was just uneventful and stale.
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  • Aimee ♥ | Aimee, Always
    January 1, 1970
    omg this cover's too gorgeous how is this possible
  • Ashley
    January 1, 1970
    cw: transphobia, homophobia, loss of a loved one, grief, death, alcohol use, drug use, sexual assault, fat shaming, ace/arophobia, The story:So there were a bunch of things I liked about this book and also a bunch of things I did not like. The general concept of the story and the writing structure was super good to me. Basically, this story is about Jess and her relationship with her girlfriend Vivi. Vivi unexpectedly dies from an illness and this story follows two separate timelines: before and cw: transphobia, homophobia, loss of a loved one, grief, death, alcohol use, drug use, sexual assault, fat shaming, ace/arophobia, The story:So there were a bunch of things I liked about this book and also a bunch of things I did not like. The general concept of the story and the writing structure was super good to me. Basically, this story is about Jess and her relationship with her girlfriend Vivi. Vivi unexpectedly dies from an illness and this story follows two separate timelines: before and after. The before timelines starts when the two meet in class and the after timeline is maybe a week after Vivi dies? It’s about Jess grieving both her relationship and the girl she loved for years. It’s heartbreaking and hard to read at times. I really liked how this story was written and specifically the structure of the dual timelines. You read back and forth every couple chapters and it really gives more depth to their relationship and the main character. What I liked:I haven’t experienced a loss anywhere near was Jess experienced, so I didn’t directly relate to this experience, but from my perspective this depiction of grief was really good and definitely hard to read at times. Jess moves through her grief in slow stages. She makes some bad decisions and definitely does some intentional self-sabotaging. Jess has anger issues and this is definitely affects how she makes decisions and how she lives her life. I don’t know if this is an accurate representation of anger issues to this degree, but to me it never seemed outrageous or fake. She has a hard time moving through the grief and tries to hold on to it as long as she can. It definitely affects the relationships in her life negatively. There was a very diverse set of characters in this book and I think it added a lot to the story. Jess is a lesbian and latina with anger issues and Vivi is probably either bi or pan with asthma. Jess’s friend Chayenne is probably aspec, but it wasn’t exactly confirmed on page. There is another mention of a trans character, but they aren’t included in any of the scenes. There’s another f/f relationship with one of the characters being a mentor for Jess and I loved their relationship. I loved the depiction of art and artists in here. I especially loved how Jess used creativity and art to calm her anger impulses. Both her therapist and Vivi pushed her to put more into her art, and after Vivi was gone she couldn’t find the strength to open up that part of herself again. I really liked how the theme of art moved through the story and changed with Jess as she moved through her grief. I think a really interesting part of this book is how apparent it was how much she relied on Vivi in their relationship. She really shut down after Vivi died and decided to close off all the parts that reminded her of Vivi. Vivi calmed her down when she was angry, so she fought instead. Vivi encouraged her to pursue her art, so she decided she was done. Because Vivi was gone, she decided to stop because she wasn’t willing to move forward without her. As she moves through her grief she learns how to rely more on herself which is really cool. I know she didn’t really have a choice in the matter, but I was happy when she made it to the other side and was able to live again. What I didn’t like:Ahhh there were so many unnecessary and triggering things in this book. Yes, I know that some books deal with upsetting content and that is totally fine. I really don’t have a problem with that and I think those books are important. There were just some statements in here that made me feel kind of gross while reading them. At one point the main character really wants to have get physical with her girlfriend when her girlfriend is obviously not ready and has said so multiple times. While this is going on she’s thinking something along the lines of “I’ll try to finagle some consent.” Ahhh I really felt weird about it when I read it. Like, yea she uses the word “consent” but “finagle”? To me that sounds like trying to elicit verbal consent when she’s already firmly said no. I don’t know if that’s how the author meant it to sound, but to me it was really weird and I did not like it at all. Later on in the same scene, she says she’s willing to wait and there’s no pressure to do anything, but the previous comment really struck me and it’s all I could think about. I did read an early copy, so hopefully this was taken out, or the wording was changed to make it sounds less gross. When the main character is grieving later on in the book she ends up kissing another male character. The way it read made it seem like she was okay with it specifically because she was a lesbian and he was a boy so “she wasn’t cheating” on her dead girlfriend. Like I get this is complicated and that grieving makes you do some weird things, but the idea that that’s not cheating because she’s only into girls is so messed up. I get that she wasn’t cheating regardless because her girlfriend has since passed, but just writing that then never addressing it again later seems really weird and gross to me? On multiple levels.They do reference what she did was wrong, but they framed it like it was wrong because she was leading on the male character not because of any other reason. I don’t know maybe I’m thinking too deep into this, but regardless not my favorite part of this book. There are some other instances of messed up comments that include transphobia, fat-shaming and ace/arophobia. I understand a lot of these issues are not necessarily bad in books. I look book that tackle hard topics. The real problem for me in this case is that they were mentioned or said, but never really addressed or unpacked? Like they would happen and they’re obviously messed up, but the story would just continue and it was never brought up again. I think it’s important to address issues like these because if there are young teens reading this book they might take those statements to heart and, ultimately it could be harmful. Some of the people who said these messed up statements were even main characters or side characters, so it’s not like they are necessarily the villains of this story. Yes, people have issues and people mess up. 100% true. But if you’re going to write these things in, they should be held accountable more than just “I was being a bitch” Like. No. I read another review of this book saying they thought it was “messy” and I completely agree. The overall structure is so so good! There are just some problematic things in there that could have been omitted or even just addressed, and it would be 100x better in my eyes. I feel like there was more I could have said about this one, but I’ve already word-vomited far too much. Read if you like:The depiction of griefDepiction of anger issuesComplicated relationships with friends/familyHeartbreaking love storyDiverse cast of charactersBooks about art/artists
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  • Dahlia
    January 1, 1970
    Oh man, I cried a few times at this. Jess's grief was just so palpable, and you really felt the life that she and Vivi expected to make together. And I like that Jess was an angry girl; I feel like girls don't get to be irrationally* angry in YA. The blacksmithing, having a mentor who was also sort of a window into what her relationship might've looked like someday, and the fact that she was iffy on college were all nice touches you don't see a lot. I went into this book assuming it was a Romanc Oh man, I cried a few times at this. Jess's grief was just so palpable, and you really felt the life that she and Vivi expected to make together. And I like that Jess was an angry girl; I feel like girls don't get to be irrationally* angry in YA. The blacksmithing, having a mentor who was also sort of a window into what her relationship might've looked like someday, and the fact that she was iffy on college were all nice touches you don't see a lot. I went into this book assuming it was a Romance, and it's decidedly not - just a heads-up to anyone else who doesn't really read blurbs and just kinda dives in with preconceived cover-based notions; it is, though, a really special grieving book, and think if you're looking for something similar to History is All You Left Me but in a Sapphic version, this is the book for you.*Not that I think her anger is literally irrational - of course its borne of grief - but it was obviously at an unusually high level and often misdirected.CW: (view spoiler)[homophobia, transphobia, and I don't know that I'd say aphobia, exactly, but it's certainly microaggressive in that area. The MC's best friend is suspected by the MC to be aromantic, though it's not fully confirmed. (hide spoiler)]
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  • Lea (drumsofautumn)
    January 1, 1970
    ♦ VIDEO REVIEW ♦The Meaning of Birds is a really beautiful, atmospheric Contemporary about first love, grief and how to continue life after losing the person you thought you'd be with forever. “Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the point is not to stop doing the things that remind me of Vivi, but to find a way to ensure she lives through me, even if the future we painted together has been permanently gessoed over.” I loved the way the story was structured. We get the story of how Jess and Vivi fall in lo ♦ VIDEO REVIEW ♦The Meaning of Birds is a really beautiful, atmospheric Contemporary about first love, grief and how to continue life after losing the person you thought you'd be with forever. “Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the point is not to stop doing the things that remind me of Vivi, but to find a way to ensure she lives through me, even if the future we painted together has been permanently gessoed over.” I loved the way the story was structured. We get the story of how Jess and Vivi fall in love, alternating with the chapters after Vivi's death. I really loved that the story was structured like that because it gave us a chance to really experience the development of the relationship between Jess and Vivi, seeing them fall in love and their everyday life, while also fulling diving into the grief that Jess experiences.And I thought it was very nice that the book chronicles basically their whole relationship to the point when Vivi dies. It almost felt like we were reflectiong and processing all of this along with Jess.When I finished this book, I immediately thought that this has got to be inspired by a recent experience the author went through, which got confirmed in the author's note. And you could really feel that. The way Brown wrote about grief, living with it, trying to forget it, wallowing in it, all those different stages you go through were brilliantly written and really made you feel for the character.I love stories about people grieving and trying to redefine their relationship with something that they loved and that connected them to the person they're grieving. Jess is struggling with drawing because Vivi was the person to really motivate her to take art more seriously and even pursue it professionally. The development of this aspect was really lovely, as it showed the reality of it being so hard to still enjoy that thing while also showing that there are ways to rediscover your love for it and eventually even use it to help you deal with the grief. “Part of me wants to tell him the truth, that drawing, creating, is Vivi, is me, is life, is death, is everything all rolled away like a rock over a crevice. I'm not ready to let her go yet. And if I start to find a way to live, to work on the work of moving on, she might truly disappear.” We have a diverse cast of characters that I really loved. There's several people of colour and queer characters, one side-character is a-spec (but doesn't wanna use labels). The queer aspect is ownvoices.There are so many different kinds of characters that we get to know during this story and all of them really add something important to Jess's storyline. I especially loved the two gay women that Jess ends up working with. Having this gay married couple be such an important part of the storyline gave me all kinds of feels.Jess as a main character is amazing and so, so flawed. She has anger issues and was in therapy for it but after Vivi's death this really flares up again. So we see her cope with her grief in some not so healthy ways, also including alcohol and weed, and just some other impulsive actions but I loved this aspect. It was so realistic, valid and relatable. “As I start grinding the ivory paint off the metal, I feel a few of my own layers shed away. Stepping forward doesn't mean I let her go. It means I take her with me. Every piece I create can contain some piece of the Vivi I knew and loved.” Overall I'd highly recommend this book. I know for many it is hard to read about queer grief and pain but I thought it was handled very well! If you like sad contemporaries that still leave you with a good message, this is the book for you.Trigger and content warnings for homophobia, grief, loss of a loved one, suicidal thoughts, sexual assault, transphobia.♦ Booktube Channel ♦ Twitter ♦ Instagram ♦I received an ARC through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review!
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  • ↠ dan ↞
    January 1, 1970
    ......... not gonna lie i'm kinda disappointed
  • Ellie (faerieontheshelf)
    January 1, 1970
    "Oh god. Stork rhymes with dork. Which I am. Because there’s no way you wanted all that trivia. Sorry, I’m ridiculously into birds. It’s a sickness.”me [before reading]: you betcha I’m ready for some soft sapphic goodness!!me [after reading]: oh my god my emotions holy shit this book was not as fluffy as expected where are the fucking tissues I really loved this book! It was beautifully drawn look at grief, filled with a great cast. Greer and Eliza (an older lesbian couple who come in partway th "Oh god. Stork rhymes with dork. Which I am. Because there’s no way you wanted all that trivia. Sorry, I’m ridiculously into birds. It’s a sickness.”me [before reading]: you betcha I’m ready for some soft sapphic goodness!!me [after reading]: oh my god my emotions holy shit this book was not as fluffy as expected where are the fucking tissues I really loved this book! It was beautifully drawn look at grief, filled with a great cast. Greer and Eliza (an older lesbian couple who come in partway through the book) were my absolute favourites. I especially liked the feature of blacksmithing, because I love when alternate art forms are utilised in books.The book follows two narratives: “before” and “after”. checking the chapter headings is crucial as you are switched back and forth a bit. Jess and Vivi had a really lovely, and what I thought very realistic, relationship. The only bit I didn’t like was the treatment of the best friend at points; she’s aromantic and I felt sometimes she was ... teased a little for not being into romance? (There’s a bit where she’s going out with a guy and some characters were like “so a date” and she insisted it “wasn’t a date”, and the other characters were like “it’s so a date” but no seriously if she says it’s not a date, it’s not a date end of). And people can think they’re being funny and it’s a joke but trust me, from personal experience it doesn’t always feel that way. Definitely worth a read if you’re a fan of the authors’ prior work, and are looking for a fufilling contemporary with a bit of emotional depth. > 4 stars I received a proof copy in exchange for an honest review
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  • Amber Smith
    January 1, 1970
    I love this book so much--Jess and Vivi's relationship was so beautiful and true. There were so many parts that resonated deep in my bones. Not only their relationship, but also the rawness of Jess's grief. I haven't cried over in book in so long, but that's how real these characters were--I loved them and didn't want the story to end (although the ending was perfect). A must-read for any who has loved and lost, anyone who has had to try to figure out how to navigate grief and healing. One of my I love this book so much--Jess and Vivi's relationship was so beautiful and true. There were so many parts that resonated deep in my bones. Not only their relationship, but also the rawness of Jess's grief. I haven't cried over in book in so long, but that's how real these characters were--I loved them and didn't want the story to end (although the ending was perfect). A must-read for any who has loved and lost, anyone who has had to try to figure out how to navigate grief and healing. One of my favorite books of the year!
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  • Emilia
    January 1, 1970
    I cried too many times to count.
  • Emily (emilykatereads)
    January 1, 1970
    Oh my god, has this book got me in a web of feelings. It broke my heart over and over again, while simultaneously filling it with fluff and happiness. And then to top it all off, rage at how problematic some of it was that I wanted to just throw this book across the room and give up with it.But I couldn’t give up. I was absolutely hooked. I fell in love with Jess and Vivi’s story, but I’m also here to tell you that there’s some big fuckin red flags in this book that made me really hella uncomfor Oh my god, has this book got me in a web of feelings. It broke my heart over and over again, while simultaneously filling it with fluff and happiness. And then to top it all off, rage at how problematic some of it was that I wanted to just throw this book across the room and give up with it.But I couldn’t give up. I was absolutely hooked. I fell in love with Jess and Vivi’s story, but I’m also here to tell you that there’s some big fuckin red flags in this book that made me really hella uncomfortable to read. But here I am, having finished this book in a sitting. So, as usual, I’ll start with the positives of this book. I absolutely loved the timeline and how it was broken into alternating before and after sections. It really hit hard in the feels as you get glimpses into the romance then to be slapped back into the grieving. I loved loved loved Greer and how alternative art forms were included in the story. Blacksmithing. How often do you hear about something as cool as blacksmithing in a book? Also, along with this, by the end Jess was giving alternate schooling such a good attitude and it’s great to see people look at alternative learning and learning trades as something good. It shouldn’t be just for the kids kicked out of their “regular” school or for kids in trouble with the law. Some people are talented in ways that don’t fall in the traditional school curriculum. Let people choose the path that suits them best. But then the book also flipped on the good representation of this, because everyone was all “oh staying here isn’t good for you” and how she’s surrounded by bad influences. Meanwhile it’s the place that sets her life back on track in a positive way.I loved the romance between Jess and Vivi. I hated how jealousy became a big thing at one point, but it was mildly remedied with an apology, but overall the romance was super sweet and enjoyable to read. And then…I feel like I could write an essay on what’s wrong with the book too. And most of it comes from shitty comments from Jess that aren’t challenged by the narrative. 1) Jess is continually mean to Chey about her not being romantically into anyone. The narrative acknowledges and alludes to her very likely being asexual/aromantic, but Jess continually harasses Chey for “leading him on” and joking about him being her boyfriend even though Chey clearly asks her to stop. This isn’t cool. Jess is outright disrespecting Chey’s potential orientation and she never apologizes. 2) Jess criticizes Vivi for being open to the idea of being with a man (not in a cheating situation, in a sexuality situation). The text never states her sexuality, but she’s either bi/pan with her explaining she’s into a person, irrelevant of gender. But Jess is disgusted by this and gives her a hard time about this.3) Proceeding this convo, Vivi then makes a comment about there being “substitutes to satisfy her curiousity.” Wow. So first Jess is negative about Vivi being strictly gay, and then they give in to the problematic idea that bi women have a “curiosity” that needs to be “satisfied.” No. Bi women are just as valid when in a same-sex relationship, and it doesn’t mean that just because she’d be with another gender means that she has some deep-seated curiosity that isn’t going to be met if she doesn’t end up with a man. There’s so much shit in the LGBTQ+ community already towards bi people, let’s not contribute more to it pls. 4) I wish I saved quotes for this one. But basically after Vivi dies, Jess obviously isn’t ready for a relationship. But she makes so many internal comments, and leads Levi on, and thinks that if she has a thing with a guy… that it doesn’t count?? She thinks being with another woman is like cheating on Vivi, but if she makes out with Levi, it’s not the same thing?? What??? So first, you criticize the girl for being also into other genders, and then you engage in activities with men. And get this!! The NARRATIVE NEVER CRITICIZES HER FOR THIS. If it was challenged, it’s one thing. But it’s not. The only problem apparently is that she’d be leading him on. Not that she thinks being with a different gender makes it an exception. (Ok so obviously she isn’t cheating on Vivi, but it’s just problematic that she thinks getting with a different gender makes it okay. It’s like perpetuating the idea that bi people are more likely to cheat because it’s “okay if it’s with another gender.” No. Cheating is cheating. She’s not cheating here, just the mindset around it is fucked.)5) So before their anniversary, Jess and Vivi had talked about sex. Vivi clearly states she isn’t comfortable going there yet and Jess says aloud that she is willing to wait, BUT internally, there is a line about her trying to “finagle to some consent.” This. Isn’t. How. Consent. Works. Reading this line in a YA book made me SO uncomfortable. The words “finagle” and “consent” shouldn’t be in the same sentence. Yeah, you may get her to say “yes” outloud if you’ve coerced her, but she’s already stated clearly that she’s not ready. That’s wrong. (They don’t end up having sex. But this comment alone sucks enough to ruin the scene. If they had sex, I probably would’ve thrown this book into a fire.)6) My last one for now, is that Jess literally says she’s “going for the gold-star” as in being a “gold-star gay.” This makes me SO mad. So, this comes up after her thing with Levi, and whether or not he can tell people what happened with them. And she makes it clear she doesn't want people to know, because she's going for the GOLD-STAR. For those who don't know, I don't know how common this still is, but people would use the term "gold-star gay" to mean they've never been with anyone other than the same-sex. Which is so fucked. It's like if you had been with another gender at some point, that it belittles you and that you're not as "gay" as another gay person who's only been with the same-sex. Let me tell you. We don't need this kind of attitude within the queer community. I actually didn't know what this term meant until I faced it myself with people giving me a hard time about how I wasn't a gold-star gay and they were. Like okay, yeah, I questioned and wasn't sure of my sexuality until a later age than you, so that now makes my identity not as solid as someone elses? Like I'm pretty fucking gay, but apparently less than others who haven't been with anyone other than the same-sex. UGH.I'm so worked up after writing this, and honestly my initial response to finishing this book was 4-star. Because it was a pleasant read (but I also binge read and didn't give myself the time to be mad about the things I'm mad at. I wrote them down quickly to come back to later and see if these issues would be remedied or not, and they weren't. So now is when I get mad). So, now that I've thoroughly thought through how I feel about it, I morally cannot give this more than 2 stars. This few issues I have with it aren't minor. Some of these issues are things that perpetuate so much hate still within the LGBTQ+ community and I can't get behind that. I absolutely wanted to love this book, because hell yEAH I wanted a cute queer but heartbreaking story, but I just can't do it. NOTE: Any lines pulled are from the arc. Some things might, I hope, be changed to be less problematic. If you've read a finished copy, please let me know if any of these are remedied, because I really really wanted to love this! Review can also be found on my blog!*Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.*
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  • USOM
    January 1, 1970
    TW: suicidal thoughts, homophobia,The Meaning of Birds is an extremely messy emotional book because it deals with a character who is handling a lot - the death of her girlfriend, her anger. Told in perspectives of 'Then' and 'Now', The Meaning of Birds unravels a moment in time - a life forever altered. While I don't mind messy characters, there were some parts of The Meaning of Birds that were difficult for me to wrap my head around. There were a few characters - like her implied aro best frien TW: suicidal thoughts, homophobia,The Meaning of Birds is an extremely messy emotional book because it deals with a character who is handling a lot - the death of her girlfriend, her anger. Told in perspectives of 'Then' and 'Now', The Meaning of Birds unravels a moment in time - a life forever altered. While I don't mind messy characters, there were some parts of The Meaning of Birds that were difficult for me to wrap my head around. There were a few characters - like her implied aro best friend - who were shallowly developed and even though they were aro, it wasn't deal with in a very sensitive way. She's just kind of described as maybe aro because she's not interested in having a relationship, but Jess' comments are cringeworthy. I also think there were some scenes or situations which didn't add a ton to the story and were not well developed.
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  • Cas
    January 1, 1970
    Like, uh. 2.5? I honestly can’t tell if I’m rating higher than I actually want to because I like the cover so much, so. RTC.
  • Alanna
    January 1, 1970
    The Meaning of Birds by Jaye Robin Brown was the first book I read during my March Break Read-a-Thon, and I absolutely adored this lovely little tale of heartbreak and healing. The Meaning of Birds is emotional and raw, really exploring Jess' emotional journey and growth. Furthermore, The Meaning of Birds puts LGBTQ2+ representation and relationships at the forefront of its story, giving Jess and Vivi's lesbian love its time to shine. Finally, Jaye Robin Brown' writing is both lyrical and powerf The Meaning of Birds by Jaye Robin Brown was the first book I read during my March Break Read-a-Thon, and I absolutely adored this lovely little tale of heartbreak and healing. The Meaning of Birds is emotional and raw, really exploring Jess' emotional journey and growth. Furthermore, The Meaning of Birds puts LGBTQ2+ representation and relationships at the forefront of its story, giving Jess and Vivi's lesbian love its time to shine. Finally, Jaye Robin Brown' writing is both lyrical and powerful, imparting experience and knowledge, even as the plot slowly meanders along (4.5/5). 
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  • Mrs. Europaea
    January 1, 1970
    FARKELSNARK!!! This book cover is AMAZING. Fibbertigibbets The novel opens with Jess trying to make sense of the senseless. Jess is a self-identified queer teenager. She has previous emotional issues with anger stemming from losing her father in combat when she was young. Memories become missiles and no amount of vodka can divert them. (view spoiler)[Jess is a hot mess for about 3/4 of the book. She drinks a lot, she fights a lot, she even steals. She has trouble managing her anger volcano an FARKELSNARK!!! This book cover is AMAZING. Fibbertigibbets The novel opens with Jess trying to make sense of the senseless. Jess is a self-identified queer teenager. She has previous emotional issues with anger stemming from losing her father in combat when she was young. Memories become missiles and no amount of vodka can divert them. (view spoiler)[Jess is a hot mess for about 3/4 of the book. She drinks a lot, she fights a lot, she even steals. She has trouble managing her anger volcano and a series of events leads her to re-branding herself in the wake of losing her girlfriend. The ending was all very convenient which irked me after having worked through all this grief with Jess but I think a lot of readers will appreciate how Brown leaves off on a positive note.I couldn't understand the point of the Levi thing, like do all queers HAVE to experiment with heterosexuality at some point because Brown makes it seem that way. Cheyanne was absent for half the story which made her seem pretty much irrelevant. I liked the idea behind Greer and Eliza but the whole thing was so EASY. I'm not saying being a queer teenager HAS to be hard and maybe this was Brown's attempt at normalizing things which I can respect but at the same time, at one point Jess gets assaulted (groped) and Brown made it seem like Jess was the culprit deserving of this treatment instead of a victim and breezed over the whole situation. Why write about it if not address it properly??? I mean especially in the #metoo era, I would expect this to be handled far better than it was. (hide spoiler)]This book was a lot of things, too many to really sum up in a word. It was corny, it was emotional, it was nerdy, it was educational, it was inspiring. NOTE to my future self: It took me a while to formulate my thoughts. I found myself split on a lot of issues with how the author handles LGBTQIA in general. Having read her previous book, a lot of the same issues I had with that one were present again in this one. I wanted to see her grow as an author and it took me quite some time to just judge this work separately from Georgia Peaches because of all the similarities.
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  • Jenn
    January 1, 1970
    I received this title as a digital ARC from Edelweiss for an honest review.Jessica has anger issues, that probably stem from her dad's death. She's trying to get a handle on them, but it's just so hard. Enter Vivi. Vivi moves to their town and Jessica is instantly smitten. What's more, between Jessica's foray into art and Vivi's support, she's getting better at controlling her anger. The girls have a lovely two or so years together when Vivi dies unexpectedly. The Meaning of Birds was a lovely, I received this title as a digital ARC from Edelweiss for an honest review.Jessica has anger issues, that probably stem from her dad's death. She's trying to get a handle on them, but it's just so hard. Enter Vivi. Vivi moves to their town and Jessica is instantly smitten. What's more, between Jessica's foray into art and Vivi's support, she's getting better at controlling her anger. The girls have a lovely two or so years together when Vivi dies unexpectedly. The Meaning of Birds was a lovely, heartbreaking story. Told in a series of back and forth between past (all through their relationship), and present (after Vivi's death), the author paints a real picture of grief. The precise time stamps on the chapters didn't do a lot for me. The "Before" and "After" was enough to go on, the rest was unnecessary and I mostly ignored it. There were some problematic things in here, mostly with the side characters, but the main story was very good. I'd still recommend this one, for sure.
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  • Claire
    January 1, 1970
    I wanted to like this book so bad, but unfortunately I could not get into it. The cover is gorgeous, the imagery is nice, the premise is ok, but I found the pace incredibly slow and pretty much uneventful. It's heartbreaking and sad, and deals with important topics, but this just wasn't my cup of tea. The fans of Nina LaCour will definitely love this book, though.*Thank you to HarperCollins for providing an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.*
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  • Teenage Reads
    January 1, 1970
    Plot:Trigger Warnings: homophobia and transphobia* She was sick. One day she was happy, healthy, Vivi, the next she had a cold, a trip to the hospital, and she was dead. This is not the first time Jess had to deal with lose, as her father died nine years ago in Afghanistan, and Jess watch as it broke her mother down, and watch her mother rebuild herself for Jess and Nina. Before Vivi, Jess had anger issues, as the only out lesbian in middle school, Jess was accustoming to picking fights with the Plot:Trigger Warnings: homophobia and transphobia* She was sick. One day she was happy, healthy, Vivi, the next she had a cold, a trip to the hospital, and she was dead. This is not the first time Jess had to deal with lose, as her father died nine years ago in Afghanistan, and Jess watch as it broke her mother down, and watch her mother rebuild herself for Jess and Nina. Before Vivi, Jess had anger issues, as the only out lesbian in middle school, Jess was accustoming to picking fights with the boys to let off some steam. With her only friend Cheyanne at her side, Jess’s therapist suggested doodling to help control her frustration during class. When Vivi moved to Grandy High and sat next to Jess in math, she saw Jess doodles as works of art and persisted that she turns her talent into an actual thing. Now that Vivi is gone, so is Jess’s will to apply to art school, or even to draw anything. Without Vivi to hold her back, Jess’s anger less loose, which lands her in Reformatory School for a few weeks. Binging on alcohol, picking fights with Cheyanne, Jess’s life is a spiraling downhill mess, until a new art form peaks her attention, and allows her to focus on something besides the Vivi size hole left in her heart. Thoughts:What an interesting story that Jaye Robin Brown crafted for us. Brown led the story from two points of view: Before Vivi’s death, and then after she died, in a way of alternating chapters throughout the whole book. This allows you to see the start of Jess’s and Vivi’s relationship, the good middle bits, to just days before Vivi got sick. Where on the other half, you got to see Vivi’s small family funeral when they dumped her ashes, Jess dealing with her grief, and starting up her post-Vivi life. The story does not give you the whole two and a half years of Vivi’s and Jess’s relationship, but Brown chose the important parts, so you really got to see the love these two high school girls shared for each other. The writing was quick and sharp, allowing the story to flow naturally, with an ending that makes sense. Favourite character award should go to Cheyanne, but Jess’s mom was also an outstanding character who was truly there to support Jess though her loss. With Vivi’s obsession of birds, the title of the book is explained by the fact that Vivi believed when her grandmother died, she came back as a bird, and one can hope that Vivi’s soul is flying high with its feather-like friends as well. Jess was not the easiest character to like at times, but Brown did allow you to pity her in those times as she is just a girl trying to get over the loss of her greatest love. With Brown describing Vivi as the kindest human in the world, anyone could cry over losing their sunshine like that.
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  • Amy (novelteahappyme)
    January 1, 1970
    “The Meaning of Birds” by Jaye Robin Brown is a YA contemporary novel that paints a portrait of love in the past, grief in the now, and the healing power of art. Focusing on the relationship between main characters Jess and Vivi, the book offers two narrative timelines: THEN - the story of how Jess & Vivi meet and fall for each other and NOW - the aftermath of Vivi’s sudden death and Jess’ attempts to handle grief, loss, and find a path forwards.Highly recommended at the Frenzy Presents even “The Meaning of Birds” by Jaye Robin Brown is a YA contemporary novel that paints a portrait of love in the past, grief in the now, and the healing power of art. Focusing on the relationship between main characters Jess and Vivi, the book offers two narrative timelines: THEN - the story of how Jess & Vivi meet and fall for each other and NOW - the aftermath of Vivi’s sudden death and Jess’ attempts to handle grief, loss, and find a path forwards.Highly recommended at the Frenzy Presents event I attended last month, “The Meaning of Birds” was also described as having a quirky loveable character that rivalled Harry Potter’s beloved Luna Lovegood. Add that to LGBTQ+ representation and I was immediately taken with the idea of this book.The story of Vivi & Jess does not disappoint. These are authentic and memorable characters readers will wish they knew in real life. The books offers a genuine portrayal of young lesbian love and an honest look at the varied societal responses to LGBTQ+ identities in a southern U.S. town. However the focus here is on love, loss, grief and the possibility of finding hope in the darkest days. Beautifully written with honesty and sincerity, “The Meaning of Birds” is truly a wonderful and memorable read.
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  • Lauren ✨ (YABookers)
    January 1, 1970
    DNF at 12%There were already several instances of unchallenged ace/arophobia coming from the main character towards her ace/aro best friend. By the looks of other reviews, this remains an issue throughout the book. Will not be continuing.
  • Boston
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 stars
  • Alyssa
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you Edelweiss for the eARC!THE MEANING OF BIRDS is a powerful portrait of love and grief. I appreciate that from the very beginning we know that this isn't a happy story -- there is no bait and switch or surprise for the reader. Instead, the alternating timeline of before and after Vivi's death really allows the reader to immerse themselves not only in Jess's grief but also her beautiful, growing love for Vivi. This is an important book for angry girls, sad girls, grieving girls, queer gir Thank you Edelweiss for the eARC!THE MEANING OF BIRDS is a powerful portrait of love and grief. I appreciate that from the very beginning we know that this isn't a happy story -- there is no bait and switch or surprise for the reader. Instead, the alternating timeline of before and after Vivi's death really allows the reader to immerse themselves not only in Jess's grief but also her beautiful, growing love for Vivi. This is an important book for angry girls, sad girls, grieving girls, queer girls, and everyone who needs to know that hurt is real and all encompassing, but also finite. I can't wait to share this book with my teens.
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  • Shanna Beasley
    January 1, 1970
    I received an early ARC of this book and absolutely could not put it down. It’s a beautiful story about love, art, loss, and grief. The bird theme tied the story together so beautifully and the writing at the end was so graceful that it left me in tears (in a good way)! This is a book for everyone: artists, the lgbtq+ community, people experiencing loss and grief, and really just anyone struggling to find their place in the world. Jaye Robin Brown is such a talented, inspiring writer!!!
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  • whataslacker
    January 1, 1970
    This is a sad book and many people won’t read it because of that. But do read it. It is a good book. The main topics, love and grief, will move you. I’m not one for books that bounce around in time. One chapter the present, the next chapter the past. However, it works for this book.
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