The Meaning of Birds is a book about grief – one that is raw and overpowering – leaving questions, silence, and emptiness.
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 year, Jess’s perfect world is erased when Vivi suddenly passes away. Reeling from the devastating loss, Jess pushes everyone away, and throws out her plans to go to art school. Because art is Vivi and Vivi is gone forever.
Desperate for an escape, Jess gets consumed in her work-study program, letting all of her dreams die. Until she makes an unexpected new friend who shows her a new way to channel her anger, passion, and creativity. Although Jess may never draw again, if she can find a way to heal and room in her heart, she just might be able to forge a new path for herself without Vivi.
TW: suicidal thoughts, homophobia,
The Meaning of Birds is an extremely messy emotional book because it deals with a character who is handling a lot – the death of her girlfriend, her anger. Told in perspectives of ‘Then’ and ‘Now’, The Meaning of Birds unravels a moment in time – a life forever altered. While I don’t mind messy characters, there were some parts of The Meaning of Birds that were difficult for me to wrap my head around.
There were a few characters – like her implied aro best friend – who were shallowly developed and even though they were aro, it wasn’t deal with in a very sensitive way. She’s just kind of described as maybe aro because she’s not interested in having a relationship, but Jess’ comments are cringeworthy. I also think there were some scenes or situations which didn’t add a ton to the story and were not well developed.
That being said, I really liked how Jess’ character develops. She starts off the book full of anger at being robbed of her love and future, not to mention a mess of grief. It’s like when we lash out in anger at anyone to distract us from the pain, or to reflect the pain we feel inside. But she has to realize that she can count on those around her, can find another avenue for her anger, and form new relationships and friendships.
Not to mention that Jess and Vivi’s relationship is so tender. We watch it unfold, like we’re sucked into her memories. It’s full of support and emotions and really some of my favorite chapters were the then ones. And talk about a lovely integration of the title and Vivi!
The Meaning of Birds is about recovery, confronting our sadness and sharing with people who love and support us. It’s about passing on the love that has touched our lives and processing our grief. I just wish there were certain scenes or elements that were either developed more or removed.