The Meaning of Birds

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...

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Title:The Meaning of Birds
Author:Jaye Robin Brown
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Meaning of Birds Reviews

  • Malanie

    "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*

  • Jes Reads

    Short but full review can be found here:

  • Ashley

    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 grief

    Depiction of anger issues

    Complicated relationships with friends/family

    Heartbreaking love story

    Diverse cast of characters

    Books about art/artists

  • - ̗̀  jess  ̖́-

    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. 

    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 

    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.

    : death of a parent, death of a loved one, grief

  • Acqua

    2.5 stars

    What drew me to

    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.

    , 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 stars

    What drew me to

    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.

    , 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.

    , but for different reasons.

    I kind of expect that from books about grief, but this was too much.

    . 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.

    [I have read an advance reader copy, so some of these things may not be in the final copy]

    , and the way some of them were written bothered me:

    🐦 The

    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

    (or, I assumed she was black because we're told she has braids and looks like Zoe Kravitz), and she has no depth or

    , 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

    - 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).

    . 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.

  • mahana

    homophobia, grief/loss of a loved one, sexual assault, repetitive use of the d slur, transphobia

    I was apprehensive about picking this up because the author’s other novel,

    , 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

    homophobia, grief/loss of a loved one, sexual assault, repetitive use of the d slur, transphobia

    I was apprehensive about picking this up because the author’s other novel,

    , 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).

    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.

  • Dahlia

    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

    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:

  • Elise (TheBookishActress)

    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

    this book is gay culture, and so am i. that’s it. thanks for coming to my ted talk.

  • Aimee ♥ | Aimee, Always

    omg this cover's too gorgeous how is this possible

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