Welcome to This Book is My Jam, a semi-regular feature in which I talk about a book I recently read and really loved. I read books written for kids, teens, and adults, so it could be aimed at any age group.
I find it hard to put into words how affecting this book was for me. I cried (a lot) when I read it. I cried when describing it to a coworker and it made her cry (and she had not read the book). It was recommended to me by another coworker’s daughter, who said it was the best book she had ever read (she’s 11, so the exact target age for this book). When discussing it with this coworker, we both teared up. There’s no doubt that I’m a softie, but seriously: bring the tissues when you read this one.
I’ve been thinking about this book a lot since I read it, mulling it over in my head. There are so many reasons why Nest worked so well for me. I think the thing that really struck home for me was how real the characters felt. They felt incredibly specific, yet at the same time very relatable. Chirp’s (our protagonist) father, a psychiatrist, deals with things in the way you would expect a psychiatrist father to deal with things (although it never felt stereotypical) and the way his daughters, Chirp and Rachel, talk reflects that they have a psychiatrist for a father. It just felt like a family you could actually imagine meeting.
Chirp as a main character was much the same way. There are a lot of quirky, precocious kids in children’s literature, and I appreciated that Chirp was not one of these characters. She did so many specific kid things (like deciding that if she could get changed in less than 15 seconds everything would be okay) that I felt like a lot of kids would relate to her. I also loved that her and her family were Jewish and that this was both a big part of her life and not the main focus of the book. I want to read more diverse books this year, and reading this book made me realize that there aren’t nearly enough Jewish characters and families in middle grade literature.
Another thing I appreciated: a lot of bad stuff was presented and dealt with very realistically. Mental illness, having a sick family member, and child abuse were just some of the issues here and are presented pretty starkly. Some of this realism and how people reacted to it really made me mad. Nothing was tied up neatly with a bow. But it felt like reality, and I liked that Ehrlich didn’t condescend to her audience. She just showed a reality. And sometimes, reality sucks. Pretending that it doesn’t doesn’t change that, and doesn’t help kids who are going through bad times.
I could keep talking about this book, and I did talk about it quite a bit more in my Goodreads review, if you’d like more of my thoughts. Even though it made me cry, I loved reading this book, and would highly recommend it. There are some pretty serious issues discussed in the book, which I’ll discuss in the next paragraph. Be aware they do contain spoilers so don’t read the next paragraph if you don’t want to know anything (else) about the book.
Serious issues discussed: A major character commits suicide. Another character is abused, and no adults intervene. A character has depression and goes to a mental institution.