Dr Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets

Dr Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos (Insta)

Genre: contemporary YA

Setting: New Jersey

I read it as a(n): hardback

Source: library

Length: 310 pp

Published by: HMH (5 March 2013)

Her Grace’s rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Dr Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets is the story of a boy, James Whitman, who, like many of us, deals with anxiety and depression. Hi beloved older sister, Jorie, got expelled from school and kicked out of the house and now struggles to afford her shitty apartment, which is better than homelessness, which is still better than living at home with their abusive parents. James knows he needs therapy but his parents won’t pay for it and he can’t afford it. So he has Dr Bird, a pigeon that lives in his head who he talks to. 

At its core, this book is just another coming of age book with angsty teens front and center. Under its surface, there are layers of thought and troubles and the need to lean on others for help. When James’s friend/crush asks him to help her find some of Jorie’s poetry for the school journal, James discovers that Jorie’s pain was deeper than anyone knew. The Brute and The Banshee, as he thinks of his parents, seemed determined to blame Jorie for everything bad about their family. James feels a load of guilt for that because he knows some of the things that happened were his fault and he never stepped up to admit it. He feels he let Jorie down and didn’t protect her. He misses her and gets anxious when he doesn’t know where she’s living. The administrators at their school are fairly stereotypical boors, morons, or outwardly stern but inside fluffy and sweet and just want to help. I found them fairly irritating and largely irrelevant. 

James himself is weird, a social reject who likes to hug trees and recite poems. His favorite poet is Walt Whitman, in part because they share a surname. When I started reading this book, I was not at all sure I would like it because – and I cannot stress this strongly enough – I fucking HATE Walt Whitman. Hate him. What a weird, arrogant, self-important old man. I’m glad he’s dead so he can’t write ANY. MORE. So I started reading this with some trepidation because I just hate Walt Whitman. The only thing he wrote that I don’t mind is “Oh Captain, My Captain,” and that is literally only because of the movie Dead Poets Society. Hate him.

So I was surprised that I actually enjoyed this book as much as I did, considering that James is always rattling off Whitman quotes, or making up his own poetry that is Whitmanesque. Or yawping. He fucking yawps. Just no. But whatever gets you through the day. It worked for James and for this book, so whatever you gotta do, I guess.

I cheerfully confess that I picked this up from the library only because I read somewhere that it is supposedly becoming a movie and it has Jason Isaacs and I will watch anything with him in it, even if there’s a lot of Whitman. I couldn’t find a release date for it which makes me sad. I want to see a new Jason Isaacs movie. But it is also sadmaking since there can really be no other role in this story he could play except the abusive asshole dad. I suppose he could be one of the boorish asshole school admins, but it doesn’t seem likely. Regardless, I hope the film comes out soon. 

I would recommend this to folks who are really into YA. I liked it well enough but at the end of the day, it was just another YA book to me. Nothing really came as a surprise, though it was very nicely written.

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