Thursday, March 12, 2015

ARC Review: Nightbird by Alice Hoffman

Title: Nightbird
Author: Alice Hoffman
Published: March 10, 2014 Random House Kids
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: “I love the way Alice Hoffman creates the most ordinary people and then turns their lives magical. . . . [Nightbird] is like reentering a wonderful dream that you vaguely remember.” —Lois Lowry, two-time Newbery Medal–winning author of The Giver

In her first novel for middle-grade readers , bestselling author Alice Hoffman tells a bewitching story of love and friendship that is truly magical.

Twig lives in Sidwell, where people whisper that fairy tales are real. After all, her town is rumored to hide a monster. And two hundred years ago, a witch placed a curse on Twig’s family that was meant to last forever. But this summer, everything will change when the red moon rises. It’s time to break the spell.

What Other Authors Are Saying 
"I loved Nightbird. Such a clever mix of fantasy and reality; the fantasy is so persuasively meshed with the story that the reader accepts everything. Alice Hoffman enters brilliantly into the twelve-year-old mind and winds her account of a disordered family into the twists and turns of an elegantly crafted narrative in which past and present unite to solve a magically intriguing problem of witches, feathers and owls." —Penelope Lively, winner of the Carnegie Medal and the Booker Prize

*** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not changed my opinion. ***

I don't really read a lot of Middle Grade. It has to be something extremely interesting to catch my eye and take notice. When I saw Nightbird it seemed to be the perfect MG for me. Nightbird was quick and impactful Middle Grade novel with an interesting world, beautiful prose, and heartwarming themes. Despite a rather basic plot development I really enjoyed it.

One thing that surprised me about this book was that I enjoyed the world. Mark this on you calendars as the day I said I enjoyed Magical Realism. I usually hate it, but the author did a fantastic job of creating a fantasy world was interesting and atmospheric and still felt perfectly natural. Perhaps that was because it was the kind of book with a history and mythology. The basis for the fantasy in the book was sort of like an urban legend. It is a world of curses and monsters all of which began hundreds of years ago and has become so entrenched in the history of the town that no one really remembers what is real and what is imaginary, well almost no one. There is a lot of dramatic irony to the story. The main characters know a secret that other people do not know or only assume. It added a different dimension to the story and made it a little more enjoyable low fantasy read to me.

Or maybe I enjoyed the world because of Alice Hoffman's writing. Despite the fact that it was less than complicated in it's sentence structure and perspective, the writing was both lyrical and lush. Her prose set the tone for a book that was one part mysterious and one part melodramatic. The secrets of the fantasy elements were contrasted to the realism of the setting which was so descriptive. The town of Sidwell felt so real and interesting. I felt like I could perfectly visualize the old town hall and museum, the woods where Twig goes exploring, and the old farm house and orchard that she lives on.  It made me miss my days in New England. It made me miss my days living in small town where you knew everyone else. Alice Hoffman's gorgeous writing complimented the world she was creating so well that it became one of my favorite parts of the book.

When it comes to the Middle Grade novels that I enjoy, the best ones tend to have impactful themes about friendship and family, Nightbird was no exception to that. The main character of Twig is a person who doesn't have a lot of friends and tends to turn to her family for solace and companionship. She has a great relationship with her mother and brother because of it. They care so much about one another that they do things they don't necessarily enjoy to protect the one another. But then throughout the book Twig learns about friendship and what it means to have and be a friend to others. These two aspects combined gave the book this really sweet and heartwarming tone that made it really enjoyable.

However I did find the general plot of the book to be a little lacking. I have not read anything by Alice Hoffman but the synopsis of the book informs me that this is her first Middle Grade novel. I'm a little surprised by that only because it was so basic. There were elements of mystery and fantasy but they seemed to be superficial parts of the story. There was the framework for a really interesting mystery where the characters could have gone on a hunt for clues ala Nancy Drew but instead the clues and truth came to them. Including a huge reveal that seemed to come out of nowhere at the very end of the story. It's not that it was bad, I just would have liked it a little bit more if there was more actual mystery to the story.

But on the whole Nightbird was a interesting and enjoyable read with a great setting and gorgeous writing that fans of all ages will enjoy. It kind of makes me want to try more of Alice Hoffman's work, maybe some of her adult stuff that is a little more complex.

I give Nightbird by Alice Hoffman an 8 out of 10

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. It was an interesting read but didn't blow me away. It would be a great library purchase and the perfect read if you are looking for a quick palate cleanser after something deep, complex, and mindblowing plot wise. I may also recommend this one is you are looking for a book for a pre-teen who like fantasy stories.

Have you read Nightbird? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!


  1. Path is is exactly what I got this book for, a palate cleanser. I can always rely on Hoffman for a quick change of scenery from my usual preference. I thought I would need a break after the 4 upcoming reviews I need to write so this is right after those.

    1. YEAH! It was the perfect change from all the more tradition fantasies I was reading. Quick, interesting, and fun. I want to read more of her adult books. I'm pretty sure we've already talked recs because I know you really enjoy Hoffman's work.

  2. I don't read a lot of middle grade books either, but this one does sound interesting. The cover definitely caught my attention right away! It sounds like the world building was really awesome! I'm sorry not everything worked for you, but I still think this is one to add to my list! Great review :)

    Tracy @ Cornerfolds

    1. It was pretty good. The few MG I have read recently has been really enjoyable. I'm getting better at picking them and they make perfect palate cleansers I think. If it's on your list, I hope you read it and enjoy.

  3. I used to read a lot of MG, but most of the review books I been getting lately have been YA. I have this from Netgalley. I will have to get to it soon. I also love books that have an underlying message.