If Birds Fly Back – Carlie Sorosiak – HarperTeen – Published 27 June 2017
Linny has been fascinated by disappearances, ever since her sister Grace ran away in the middle of the night without saying goodbye.
Sebastian can tell you how many galaxies there are, and knows how much plutonium weighs. But the one thing he can’t figure out is the identity of his birth father.
They’ve never met, but Linny and Sebastian have one thing in common: an obsession with famous novelist and filmmaker Alvaro Herrera, who went missing three years ago and has just reappeared. As they learn more about the mystery of Alvaro, Linny and Sebastian uncover the answers they’ve been searching for.
If Birds Fly Back is a poignant debut. This book is refreshingly heartwarming. A little sad, a lot realistic, and something a bit magical.
Linny is obsessed with people who disappear and then reappear again. Her sister Grace left home one night and hasn’t been seen since. Linny believes if she can study enough reappearances she might be able to bring Grace back somehow. So, when Linny spots Alvero Herera – missing, presumed dead for three years – at the nursing home where she volunteers, she knows she needs to learn his secrets. Sebastian too wonders why people leave, why they can turn their backs on their families. He, too wants to know Alvero, to know his secrets. But Sebastian has a secret of his own.
At first Sebastian and Linny repel each other. They get in each other’s way, they think they are so different from the other. I love it when characters begin by disliking each other. It brings so much more growth to the story. As Sebastian and Linny start to share their secrets, they learn that they have more in common than they originally thought. And, through a summer of piecing together secrets, they form a strong relationship.
If Birds Fly Back is told in alternating chapters, which switch between Sebastian and Linny’s points of view. They both have experienced the grief of losing someone who disappears without warning. They both are compelled by mysteries and questions, disappearances, theories, and reappearances. They are both wonderful characters. And yet their voices are unique. Sebastian has a colourful imagination, enhanced by his love of science and theories and testing the unknown. Linny has an artful creativity. Added to her chapters are sections from the screenplay that she is writing about losing her sister and trying to find her again.
The book has great imagery, from birds to colours, and is set against Florida’s sun-baked beaches and suburbia. Linny’s screenplay and Sebastian’s astrophysics quotes and theories just add to the richness of their characters. There are also a great set of secondary characters, from Alvero himself, to Grace, who we only see through Linny’s thoughts and screenplay, as well as Linny and Sebastian’s friends.
This is a story about growing up, learning who you are, who you want to be, where you came from, where you are going, and better understanding who the people around you are, even when it feels like you don’t understand them at all.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Missing persons, disappearances, Florida, abandonment, romance, relationships, sisters, fathers and sons, parents.
Reading age guide: Ages 13 and up.
Advisory: Sexual references, sex scene with minimal details. Coarse language, f*** (3), sh** (43), bit** (1), assh*** (1).
Published: 27 June 2017 by HarperTeen
Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook. 448 pages.