REVIEW: Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig
Author: Chuck Wendig (http://www.terribleminds.com/)
Genre: Urban Fantasy/ Dark
Series: Miriam Black #1
Length: 384 pages
My Copy: Purchased for Kindle Reader on iPad
Miriam Black knows when you will die.
Still in her early twenties, she's foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, suicides, and slow deaths by cancer. But when Miriam hitches a ride with truck driver Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be gruesomely murdered while he calls her name.
Miriam has given up trying to save people; that only makes their deaths happen. But Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim. No matter what she does she can't save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she'll have to try.
How do you review a book like “Blackbirds?”
I literally had to drag myself to the laptop to type this out, because good sense dictates I should refrain from writing a review for Chuck Wendig’s gut-wrenchingly raw, impeccably plotted and entirely gruesome new novel. Because it’s not easy.
Before I begin the weekly dissection, let me make a disclaimer: Blackbirds is a polarizing novel. You will either hate it or love it. You will want to either throw up from all the profanity and descriptions or take out a pen to analyze the complex mess that is protagonist Miriam Black.
Which teams am I on, you ask? You’ll find out.
THE BEST THING ABOUT THIS BOOK IS MIRIAM BLACK
So Miriam Black can touch people and see how they die. With a concept like that, it’s obvious that she’s going to be a jaded, hard-ass, sailor-mouthed person. And she does start off like that: cynical, negative and with a mouth on her that nearly burned my face off. It’s hard to feel much love for Miriam with her attitude. Chuck Wendig does what most YA PNR novelists wouldn’t dare: take a protagonist with a dark power and make her use it as a bad thing, or at least a profitable thing. How many books have you read where a psychic protag used her power to line her pockets with cash? How many books have you read where she uses her power as a way to live?
Miriam isn’t afraid to admit she’s a bad person. She likes bad-news-guys; she sees the world as a bleak and negative place; she curses so much and so often that if you drank a shot for every curse-bomb in this book, you’d be steamrolled by the fifth page. She makes dumb decisions but here’s the difference: it isn’t that she is TSTL. She knows she’s making bad decisions; she’s just too broken to care. She’s lost faith in ever being able to control what she calls Fate. She desperately wants not to, but still believes herself to be the “hand of death”.
Herein lies the beauty of Blackbirds: its heroine is broken, snarky, and approaches blood and gore with the lightness of us girls approaching hair ribbons. But still, somewhere in the middle of this book, I wanted someone to glue her back together. I wanted to be able to glue her back together, because I began to care for her. I could see through her armor. Inside her is a train-wreck that needs to be fixed.
Mr. Wendig better do some fixing in book two, Mockingbird.
(On a side note: Miriam’s past put a voice in my head screaming CARRIE! CARRIE! You know, Stephen King’s Carrie. There’s even a, um, bloody bathroom scene. Just…bloodier. Can you even believe that?)
NOT REALLY Y/A
Yes, you heard me. Shoo, if you’re below 13, or even better, 15. Shoo.
- Cursing: so much cursing. Every line, every page. It’s as if someone tipped a jar labeled Profanity over this book and forgot to mop it up. I’m no prude when it comes to swearing, but at one point, I almost gave up reading because of the cursing. The plot was engrossing so I stuck to it. But still, it’s just too much for a YA book.
- Negativity: I think post-apocalyptic novels try too hard. Chuck Wendig makes today’s Earth seem like a place you’d want to blowtorch. Everyone and everything seems awful and dark. Sometimes you want to hit the man for the lack of sunshine in this thing. Blackbirds is overwhelmingly negative; if you are sensitive to that kind of thing, you’ll do well to stay far from it.
- Gore: Death scenes, death scenes, torture scenes, painful-past scenes- bloody, bloody, bloody. Sometimes sickeningly so. Again, if you think you have a threshold for blood and gore scenes, step away.
- Secondary Characters/ Villains: Except for the, um, hero Lewis, everyone else is as I said before, overwhelmingly negative. Ashley, Miriam’s “partner” a.k.a “boyfriend” a.k.a “idiot meth-tweaker,” is just hateable. Harriet is the most detestable person I’ve seen in a novel recently; I wanted to garrote her. Ingersoll, the Big-Bad, was brutal. Miriam’s mom was scary. Even the cameos were just horrible. A book full of awful people with Lewis like a beacon amongst them.
ON THE PLUS SIDE
Cover: isn’t it gorgeous? I think it’s gorgeous.
Writing: Chuck Wendig is a terrific writer. Cinematic and inspired. Miriam is a terrific protagonist. Just wish the man would lay off the profanities for the sake of God.
Miriam: We’ve been over this, people.
Raw and Honest: If you could touch someone and see how they die, it wouldn’t really all be rainbows and lollipops in your life, right?
Guy drives a truck: No, it’s a plus. Really. We needed a trucker-dude-hero; it’s just too perfect for a lot of snappy one-liners and interesting trucker observations. And he’s sweet while the rest of the book is this poster child for bitterness.
Truly detestable villains: Ugh, they still give me the heebie-jeebies.
Plotting/ Pacing/ Writing Gimmicks: Spot on, Mr. Wendig, spot on. The Interludes after every chapter are perfect to reveal Miriam’s past. The vision/hallucination thing going on with Miriam is fuel to the fire. The chapter headings are curiosity magnets. There are no cliffhangers, thank God, but enough loose threads to easily birth a sequel.
So I will be reading Mockingbird, because I’ve come to adore Miriam and Mr. Wendig’s cinematic writing. I can’t recommend this book to everyone though, because I don’t want to be responsible for any heart attacks. Try a sample; see if you can take it. If you’re an avid Stephen King/ Dean Koontz/ Graham Masterton fan, you probably can. If you flinch at F-bombs, you probably can’t.
Final grade is 3 stars on 5.