Author: ND Gomes
Publisher: HQ Young Adult
Format: Digital ARC via Netgalley
Publication Date: 16th November 2017
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Olivia disappeared the night the blackbird died.
It was New Years Eve the night that dead blackbirds descended, hours before fourteen year old Alex McCarthy’s sister Olivia went missing from a party.
Committed to finding out what happened to her sister, within the previously safe walls of their subarctic Orkney village, Alex knows that dishevelled, sometimes intoxicated Detective Inspector Birkens is her best shot.
Yet as they uncover the secrets behind Olivia’s last night, Alex starts to find things she may be better off never knowing…
I received an advanced reader copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This has not influenced my opinions, or the contents of this review.
Blackbird is a heart wrenching book about loss and grief, and I found it so difficult to put down. The writing is simple, easy to get into and skillfully shows the emotional impact of the story. This review is going to be really vague because I don’t want to spoil anything.
For most of the story we follow Alex as she deals with the disappearance of her older sister. Alex and her sister are really close, so she is very effected by what is happening, and her emotional journey over the course of the book was really well written and believable. She struggles a lot over the course of the book, it feels really genuine and I found myself rooting for her as she searches for answers of her own.
Occasional chapters from Olivia’s perspective covering the months leading up to her disappearance were really effective. They build a sense of tension and dread, knowing what is about to happen to her. This also gives nice insight into who she is as a character, outside of how Alex views her, making her seem more real, and less of an idea.
I really liked the relationship that developed between Alex and the lead detective on the case. It was good that he was an adult that Alex could discuss and process her feelings with safely while her parents were dealing with their own feelings. He’s haunted by his own past, and Alex is able to relate to that, and I really liked how they seemed to understand and support each other.
Alex grows up really fast over the course of the book, she is understandably traumatized, which creates a divide between her and her friends. She gets very frustrated that her friends don’t seem to understand what she’s going through.
The story is set in a small, close-knit island community which adds to the atmosphere and mood of the novel. The only slight drawback of this is that due to the limited possibilities, I did guess one of the plot twists about halfway through the book, so it’s wasn’t a huge shock to me. That knowing didn’t taint the finale however, which was incredibly tense that I felt like I couldn’t read quickly enough.
Over all Blackbird is a really well written young adult mystery novel, with a carefully crafted emotional weight that really drew me in. This is the sort of book that will easily keep you reading late into the night in search of answers and closure.
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