Blackbird Fly

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Blackbird Fly Book Poster Image
Super relatable heroine, lots of middle school drama.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Filipino and Cebuano culture and language. Beatles history; many song and album titles. "Redemption" defined.

Positive Messages

It's never too late to fix mistakes. Don't worry about what others think or about fitting in; be true to yourself and follow your dreams.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Apple makes mistakes but tries to set them right. She's a loyal friend who treats others the way she wants to be treated. She's a great model for empathy and is determined to realize her dream of owning a guitar. After she has some success lying to her mother, she finds it comes more and more easily. Bigoted and racist teasing includes reference to a Filipina girl as Chinese, accusing her of eating dogs, and characters frequently barking or howling at her at school.

Violence

A shoving match at school knocks one kid to the ground.

Sex

Middle schoolers go off into the woods in pairs. Rumor spreads that a girl made out with 12 guys in a few months.

Language

"Sucks," "suck it," "sux" in graffiti, "pissed," and "crappy." "Gay" and "retard" used as pejoratives. Middle school boys keep a list of the ugliest girls in school called the Dog Log and a list of the prettiest called the Hot Lot.

Consumerism

Funyuns, Skittles, Chuck Taylors, Vans, Dutch Egmond guitar, Google, Diet Coke, Dr Pepper, Fender Starcaster, Yamaha, Beatles songs and albums.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Blackbird Fly is a debut novel about a middle school girl's struggles to fit in. As the only Filipina in her small Louisiana school, Apple endures racist and bigoted teasing. She's also on a not-so-secret list kept by the boys of the ugliest girls in school. Overall, the messages are very positive about empathy and embracing who and what you are. Boy-girl dynamics include references to making out or kissing. Apple's a big Beatles fan, and every chapter includes a song title. Strong language includes "suck" and "crappy"; "gay" and "retard" are used negatively by mean kids.

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written bytobrienma January 17, 2016

Enjoyable read

Read it with my 13 year old and we both enjoyed it quite a bit. Reinforces a positive message about being true to who you are.

What's the story?

As the only Filipina in her small Louisiana school, sixth-grader Apple is constantly reminded of how she's different from everyone else. But she only wants two things in life: to be more "American" so she can fit in, and to learn how to play the guitar like Beatle George Harrison. Just when Apple's at the lowest point on the school's social ladder, she meets a new boy from California who doesn't think being from the Philippines is weird at all. He also doesn't care what other people think, and as he and Apple become friends, he helps her realize her dream of learning guitar and to see herself and her family background in a whole new light.

Is it any good?

In BLACKBIRD FLY, debut novelist Erin Entrada Kelly creates a warts-and-all-likable heroine whom everyone can relate to. She brings a universality to Apple's unique circumstances by letting the reader inside Apple's head and heart to understand the isolation she feels at school from being different and the frustration she feels at home for not being understood and supported by her mother.

The plot mostly involves middle school social drama, with some mistakes Apple makes on the way to learning guitar seeming to go on forever, making the ending feel arbitrary. But kids are unlikely to notice and mostly will enjoy rooting for Apple as she discovers she can feel comfortable in her own skin.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about stereotypes. What do some of the kids believe about Apple because she's from the Philippines? How does that make Apple feel?

  • Why are books about middle school so popular? What's important about that time in a kid's life?

  • Do you have a talent or passion like Apple's talent and passion for guitar? What is it? Do you think it runs in your family?

Book details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love middle school and coming-of-age stories

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