Dr Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos is a young adult novel about a boy, James Whitman, who is trying to cope in what is obviously a chaotic home situation. His older sister has been expelled from school and is then kicked out of their home. James calls his father the Brute and his mother the Banshee. And all he wants to do is bring his sister home, get her back in school so she can graduate, and maybe make sense of himself and his life. He carries a copy of Walt Whitman’s Leave of Grass with him, has a crush on a girl, and his best friend is having some troubles all his own.
There are times when the prose has a cadence not unlike Walt Whitman’s poetry which makes sense for a narrator who can quote lines of poetry and is trying to write poetry himself. This is a coming-of-age novel that focuses self-awareness. In trying to get to where he understands how his sister’s life became so out of control, he eventually comes to understand himself. The ending of the novel seems to be a little rushed as the various threads of the story are tied up and issues are, for the most part, resolved. I liked this novel and I’ve a feeling some young readers will recognize themselves in the narrator’s confusion and despair. Hopefully they will also be able to recognize his courage and commitment to what is best for himself.