If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of books that really engage me past the main story and encourage me to dig deeper and really think about what the author wants to tell her readers. Well, I have come to say that Boy, Snow, Bird did not disappoint.
I won’t lie: I was a little nervous when I started reading. I had fallen in love with the book’s premise after reading its dust jacket blurb and even featured it on my blog before I had even bought it. Once I’d ordered it online I checked incessantly to see if it had arrived yet. After all that hype I was really, really worried that I would end up dissatisfied. Luckily, that was not the case.
The book begins in New York and we are immediately thrown into action as we watch Boy Novak run away from home. As this is happening, she (yes, she) begins to explain why she is running away and the stakes that are involved. Her father, a professional rat catcher, has been abusing her. She lives perpetually in fear; one wrong move could trigger her father to lay his hands on her. So, though she is terrified, she decides to escape and find a new life far away from the rat catcher. Even though I knew Boy was being set up as the “evil” stepmother in this story, I couldn’t help but feel empathetic towards her. I cheered her on as she fled. In Boy, Snow, Bird, the line between villain and hero is often blurred.
Boy winds up in Flax Hill, Massachusetts where she eventually meets and weds Arturo Whitman, who is a jeweler by trade. He has an “extraordinary-looking” daughter named Snow from a previous marriage and everyone in Flax Hill seems to be captivated by this pale-skinned, raven-haired beauty. It is not until Boy gives birth to golden-skinned Bird that she realizes Arturo and Snow have been passing. What follows is, on the surface, a loose retelling of the Snow White tale but deep down Boy, Snow, Bird is about the complexity of race, perception, and sense of self.
There were many aspects of this book that made it such a thrilling and enjoyable read for me. First, though it promises to be a retelling of the classic Snow White story, it doesn’t take it in a literal sense. I happen to dislike works that take things too literally because I find it lacks real imagination and is often just a lazy way to write. I had no issues with the lack of poisonous apples and obvious wicked witches here. Like I said before, the line between villain and hero is blurred, and masterfully so. In a book that’s all about perception and duplicity, I see this as a strength, not a weakness. We are constantly re-evaluating what is being presented to us: Boy is actually a girl; mirrors are not always truthful; “evil” stepmothers are not always as evil as they seem; those who think they are being “good” end up doing more harm than they understand. These re-evaluations urge us to question what we have already accepted as real and beg us to reconsider everything from a different perspective.
Overall, Boy, Snow, Bird was a very enchanting and entertaining read. It is intelligent and skillfully written. Though its main character seems vain at first there is no vanity or triteness here. This is a book that leaves readers more empathetic and more socially aware; for me, that is one of the most valuable qualities a book can have. I read another review that said that Boy, Snow, Bird is a book that you press into a friends hand and urge them to read it and I wholeheartedly agree. If you haven’t already read this book you must! When you’re done you can come back and discuss it with me 😉
Verdict: Another must read; 2014 is becoming an amazing year for good books.
Read if: You enjoy reading about race relations, passing, loose fairy tale retellings.
Have you read Boy, Snow, Bird? What did you think?