This was not a good book for me to review.
I have a bird phobia.
But I received an unsolicited review-copy (thanks anyway, Pan Macmillan Aus…it’s not your fault I have a Thing about birds), and I thought, “Well, let’s give this feathery book a chance, eh?”
Well, it didn’t go well. I really don’t like birds. Why?
But, I thought, why not share my woes with you, blogglings, AND review the book! Simultaneously!
What could possibly go wrong?
As Stars Fall hits shelves on July 1st, 2014.
In north-eastern Victoria, bush-covered hills erupt into flames. A Bush Stone-curlew escapes the fire but a woman studying the endangered bird does not.
When Robin’s parents split up after the fire, her mother drags her from the country to a new life in the ugly city. Robin misses her dog, her best-friend, the cows, trees, creek, bushland and, especially, the birds. Robin is a self-confessed, signed-up, card-carrying bird-nerd. Just like her dad.
On the first day at her new school, Robin meets Delia. She’s freaky, a bit of a workaholic, and definitely not good for Robin’s image.
Delia’s older brother Seth has given up school to prowl the city streets. He is angry at everything, but mostly at the fire that killed his mother.
When the Bush Stone-curlew turns up in the city parklands next to Seth and Delia’s house the three teenagers become inextricably linked. Soon their lives are circling tighter and tighter around each other, and the curlew.
Cait’s Childhood Bird Story of Horror and Trauma
When I was a wee tot of about 7 or 8, we went on a family picnic (as you do) to a nice place with lots of trees and barbecues and…
If you’re not Australian, let me explain a kookaburra to you: It’s monstrously huge bird with a beak the size of a small country. Serrated beak, I might add. Their wing-span is huge. We’re talking Pacific ocean spread huge. And they have these eyes…oh, help. These beady eyes (probably have lasers) that drip anger and hate and revenge and disdain and malice.
Here is a picture, if you need visual help:
LOOK! IT’S KILLING A SMALLER BIRD. LOOK AT THAT VICIOUS MONSTER.
SO. We were roasting sausages on the barbie (barbecue, you uneducated yobbos) in the good ol’ Australia manner. And these bloodthirsty birds swooped in for. the. kill.
They weren’t just snatching sausages straight off the barbie. They were snatching them from our hands. We ended up having several people stand around whoever was eating, plates in hand to ward off attackers, while that person skulled their lunch. And me? My precious baby face got sliced by a kookaburra beak! I had a scar for days! (Though not anymore, because that trauma faded, thank goodness.)
I still vividly remember the terror.
I also remember my dad bashing a kookaburra with a metal picnic plate (who has metal picnic plates?!) and making that blighter see stars for days.
But wait! My story of bird terror has a Part II.
When I was 11 we moved to Far North Queensland. Wonderful place. Lots of rain and red dirt. And there we met: curlews.
As Stars Fall features curlews (not kookaburras), which is why I feel the need to mention these tricky little suckers. Now I’ve never been to Victoria (which is nearer the bottom of Australia) and As Stars Fall is set there. But in QLD? Let me describe to you what a curlew sounds like:
Curlew’s call: A small child being murdered viciously in the middle of the night.
I AM NOT EVEN JOKING. We thought the neighbours were being murdered.
Imagine that at night. Twice as loud. Twice as vicious.
As Stars Fall describes this call call as a “wee-lo” sort of sound. IT IS NOT. IT IS LIKE DEATH.
Thus I conclude: I hate birds.
I hate the way they fly. I hate the way their beady eyes look at you. I hate the way they attack. I hate they way the eat and sleep and steal and look and BREATHE.
Shall we have a review now?
Cait Reviews As Stars Fall very Logically and Unbiasedly
Putting my unloving disposition towards birds aside, I still didn’t enjoy this book, unfortunately.
The cover = absolutely gorgeous.
That is definitely a thing worth pointing out. It’s whimsy and beautiful and really captures the essance of the book. But the title? Why is it called As STARS Fall? I’m thinking As BIRDS Fall would be more befitting.
But the writing? It felt dense and exhausting.
I feel like I had to wade and push and shove to get to the actual story. Pages and pages of…words. WORDS WORDS. And when we paused for a chapter to narrate by a) the curlew herself, because, why not! or b) read an essay about birds by someone…I snoozed.
Also, it takes a whole paragraph to say one teeny tiny thing. For instance:
Seth is being looked at a certain way. He doesn’t like it. He doesn’t want to be looked at like that. Pity stinks.
Now call me a picky eater, but those 4 sentences all said one thing: Seth doesn’t like being looked at with pity. SO WHY NOT JUST SAY THAT??! Most of the paragraphs are like that.
It’s narrated by 3 people: Robin, Delia, and Seth.
It’s all in present tense. Robin narrates in 1st, Delia narrates in 3rd, and Seth narrates in 3rd. I think that’s awesome! Variety! Huzzah! Buuut…Seth spent 90% of the book completely stoned and very unlikable. I get that he was having a rough time (Delia and Seth are siblings and their mother just died), and I appreciate how horrible and tough his life is right now. I’m sorry for him. But I really struggled to care about him. Every time his chapters rolled around, I knew it’d just be him trotting off to get weed and not caring for his little sister, Delia, and being so out of his head that he’s even violent to Delia.
I hate it how the book turned a kid who was suffering from grief into a villain.
I wasn’t wild about the slow pace…but I admit! While it’s not for me it could be for YOU.
The prose is fluffy, reflective…but you know what? Kind of beautiful! I feel like it’s really getting into the soul of the matter. But since when should you trust me?! This is definitely one of those read-it-and-see-if-you-like-it books. (Also, most reviews on Goodreads, I noticed, are 4-stars.)
It’s extremely birdy.
Not in a “I Like Birds” kind of way, but in a “What Is The Bird Thinking? We Must Study It’s Habitat” kind of way. Not…so…interested.
But I think Delia and Seth’s dead mother is a bird. Or her spirit is a bird? Or they wish she’d turned into a bird instead of dying? DON’T ASK ME TO EXPLAIN. But, with the birdy essays, I think you need to appreciate birds to read this.
Good thing the book ends with a chapter narrated by the point-of-view of the bird!
Didn’t see that coming!
Cait has recovered from her Bird Trauma in her childhood, as you can obviously tell. She is fine about birds now. They don’t scare her. Ha. Ha. Scary birds? Pfft. But MAGPIES, oh please, magpies are little offspring of evil. Have you seen how devilish their eyes are? And how they swoop when you’re minding your own business and just walking down the road? They are out for blood. MALICIOUS BIRDS. But yes, Cait still hates birds.